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Stricter COVID-19 measures, curfew arrive as health experts warn Quebec hospitals stretched thin

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Curfew concerns rise in anticipation of new lockdown measures' Coronavirus: Curfew concerns rise in anticipation of new lockdown measures
WATCH: The strict new measures announced on Wednesday are designed to curtail the spread of COVID-19. Parts of Europe have tightened their lockdowns with curfews ranging from a few hours to full days. As Global’s Tim Sargeant reports, many insist the measures are long overdue – Jan 6, 2021

As the pandemic continues to rock Quebec and puts a heavy strain on hospitals and health-care workers, some medical experts say they are not surprised by the province’s fresh wave of lockdown measures designed to curtail the spread of the COVID-19.

A large swath of Quebec has been under partial lockdown since October, with social gatherings banned and bars, gyms, theatres and dining rooms closed in designated red zones. The goal was to keep elementary and high schools open, even with some restrictions in place.

But as the pandemic’s second wave took hold and hospitalizations climbed, the premier ordered a shutdown over the winter holidays to stem the tide including the physical closure of non-essential businesses and schools until Jan.11

As pressure mounts on hospitals and the daily tallies of new cases of COVID-19 top 2,500, some health experts say the province’s pivot to tighten restrictions and extend certain closures is needed.

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READ MORE: Quebec imposes curfew, tightens lockdown restrictions as coronavirus health crisis deepens

The number of hospitalizations related to the virus has surpassed 1,300 in the past week, which is the highest it’s been since May, when the first wave shook Quebec. Patients in intensive care unit topped 200 as of Wednesday.

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“When you look at the situation in hospitals, when you look at the number of people are getting sick, the fact that hospital resources are being stretched fairly thin, I don’t think there is really any other option,” said epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos.

Dr. Donald Sheppard, chair of the microbiology and immunology department at McGill University, says Quebec’s healthcare system is under pressure. Surgeries and cancer screenings are being postponed and ICUs are filling up, he added.

“The biggest worry is, eventually, if we don’t do anything, we’ll get to the point where it’s going to be the decision where we have two patients, one ventilator and someone has to decide,” Sheppard said in an interview Wednesday.

While Sheppard said that he is in favour of tightened measures to curb the spread, he told The Canadian Press he does not support a potential curfew in the province and that the premier must justify such a decision.

He said the majority of outbreaks documented by public health have been in workplaces and schools and said while some cases may be due to people breaking the rules, he doesn’t think enough people are having illicit parties that would result in more than 2,500 cases a day.

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Click to play video 'Quebec launches new vaccination strategy as hospital beds in short supply' Quebec launches new vaccination strategy as hospital beds in short supply
Quebec launches new vaccination strategy as hospital beds in short supply – Jan 6, 2021

Medical expert Dr. Mitch Shulman explained hospitals in Montreal are dealing with the usual hurdles that winter brings — but this time, they are also facing the challenges that come with the pandemic.

“The emergency rooms are bursting and we’re understaffed,” he said.

Aside from the province implementing more measures, Shulman explained that Quebecers can help limit the spread of the virus by following public health guidelines such as wearing a mask and keeping a two-metre distance.

He also stressed limiting contacts with others as much as possible.

“Remember, the tried and true still works,” he said.

READ MORE:As coronavirus pandemic rages on, is Quebec heading toward another full lockdown?

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—With files from Global News’ Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press

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