Quebec political parties showed a united front on Tuesday as the province continues to struggle to get the health crisis under control, recording over 2,000 daily COVID-19 cases for four consecutive days.
“We’re all together to save our health system,” Premier François Legault said at a press conference in Montreal attended by opposition party leaders including Dominque Anglade for the Quebec Liberal party, Québec solidaire’s Manon Massé and Paul St-Pierre Plamondon of the Parti Québécois.
On Tuesday, Quebec set a daily record with 2,183 new cases of the illness, bringing the total caseload since the start of the pandemic to 181,276.
Patients requiring hospitalization remains above the 1,000 mark. In the last 24 hours, seven more people were hospitalized for a total of 1,055. Of those, 137 are in intensive care, a decrease of nine since Monday.
Legault said he was most worried about the situation in hospitals, noting more than 7,000 health-care workers were on sick leave.
“We need to help our health workers and to do that we need to follow the rules to avoid increasing the number of COVID patients in our hospitals,” he said.
“It is really critical we are entering a phase that is very difficult for all Quebecers,” added Anglade.
The premier said the province is already doing what it can to curb the transmission of the coronavirus.
“We’re already closing schools and businesses for the holidays, but we can’t control what’s going on in houses,” he said, adding now is not the time to come up with ways to skirt the public health rules.
All non-essential businesses are set to close for a two-week period, starting Dec. 25 until Jan. 11, 2021 under restrictions announced last Tuesday.
Only people living alone are allowed to join another family bubble to celebrate the holidays.
“I know we would all like to see our friends but we all have to make one last effort,” Legault said.
Travelling abroad not recommended
As for those seeking respite from Quebec winters with a quick trip to southern destinations, Legault said travel abroad was not recommended.
“If it’s not necessary, don’t go,” he said.
Québec solidaire Leader Manon Massé said travelling south when you’re not allowed to cross regions in Quebec is difficult to accept.
“I’m asking my fellow citizens to think twice before doing that, and if not be very respectful of the quarantine when you return to Quebec,” she said.
Legault, however, said it’s difficult to stop people from travelling when borders with other countries remain open, adding that decision falls under federal jurisdiction.
He added that discussions with Ottawa are ongoing in how to ensure passengers returning from abroad respect strict quarantine rules.
“We want to avoid a repeat from March break,” Legault said, referring to a spike in cases in the provinces following spring break.
“We want to make sure that it’s done properly and that we make sure we have people doing the follow up to make sure that it’s respected,” he said.
Legault said he isn’t against looking at the possibility of using Montreal-area hotels for travellers who have nowhere else to quarantine for two weeks, after discussing the issue with Ontario counterparts.
Quebec continues to lead the country in coronavirus-related deaths with a total of 7,794 fatalities, including 28 reported on Tuesday.
Health authorities say 10 Quebecers died in the last 24 hours, while 14 deaths happened between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20, one before Dec. 15 and three at unknown times.
The latest data available shows 26,130 screening tests were carried out on Dec. 20 and 4,612,006 overall.
Vaccine rollout continues
On Monday, Quebec intensified its vaccination effort with 21 sites across the province ready to receive the vaccine.
On Tuesday, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said on Twitter that 18 of those sites had received their doses, with three having started giving shots, including two long-term care facilities in Montreal and one in the Outaouais region.
“The other sites will begin to vaccinate today and tomorrow,” he wrote.
Since Quebec’s vaccination campaign kicked off just over one week ago on Dec. 14, 5,273 doses have been administered, including 437 on Monday.
Legault reminded Quebecers of the need to remain careful and continue to observe public health guidelines, warning the next few weeks remain critical.
“Yes, there’s a vaccine, but the number of vaccines is limited,” he said.
The premier said the province was expecting an additional 50,000 doses this week and another 29,000 in two weeks.
“That’s all that we’ve got confirmed for the moment, so 84,000 doses we’re talking about vaccinating 42,000 people,” Legault said. “As you can see, it’s very limited.”