As Quebec begins accepting appointments for the novel coronavirus vaccine, the province’s health minister says more than 70,000 seniors called or headed online before noon Thursday to book their first shot.
Christian Dubé says that Quebecers who are ages 85 and older are registering in droves on the first day the registration service became available.
“We are very, very happy about the rollout of vaccination,” he told reporters in Montreal.
Dubé also asked people under the age of 85 not to make an appointment for now, so as not to clog the phone line, which experienced temporary difficulties Thursday morning.
He also stressed that Quebecers should opt to register for their first shot on the web platform set up to make appointments. He said Clic Santé can process up to 12.5 appointments per second.
Some doses were already being administered in Laval, just north of Montreal. Inoculations for the greater Montreal area are to begin Monday.
Under the current plan, only people who are born in 1936 or before are allowed to book their first shot. The expansion of the inoculation campaign to the general public comes after the province focused on vaccinating elders in long-term care homes and seniors residences, as well as health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
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As spring break approaches, Dubé also asked Quebecers to adhere to public health measures and not let their guards down.
The easing of restrictions, such as the opening of cinemas in designated red zones, will still go forth on Friday. But the minister remains worried about variants of the virus and he says he hopes not to have to apply new measures in the coming weeks.
Quebec reported 858 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 16 additional deaths Thursday as the pandemic continues.
Of those deaths attributable to COVID-19, five occurred in the past 24 hours while the others took place earlier in the month.
The case count now stands at 285,330 in the province and recoveries have surpassed 266,000. The health crisis has to the deaths of 10,361 Quebecers, but the tally was changed to remove a fatality previously attributed to the virus following an investigation.
The number of hospitalizations related to the pandemic continued to drop Thursday. There are 22 fewer patients for a total of 633. Of them, 122 are in intensive care units, a drop of eight compared to the previous day.
When it comes to vaccinations, 8,300 doses were administered Wednesday. Over the course of the past two months, 387,076 Quebecers have been vaccinated.
Health authorities say 32,071 tests were carried out Tuesday, the latest day for which that information is available.
— With files from The Canadian Press