The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants in Quebec jumped by more than 100 on Sunday, on the eve of a ramp-up in the province’s mass vaccination plan.
The province is reporting 137 confirmed cases involving variants, with most of them identified as the B.1.1.7 mutation first detected in the United Kingdom.
While most of the cases are in Montreal, the province’s public health institute reports there are also 40 cases of the variant originally found in South Africa in the Abitibi-Temiscamingue region.
A further 1,083 cases remain under investigation and are listed as “presumptive.”
Quebec’s health minister described the overall situation as “encouraging” as the province reported 737 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths due to the pandemic.
Four of the deaths occurred in the last 24 hours, while the rest took place earlier.
Hospitalizations rose by two to 601, while intensive care numbers rose by five to 117.
Christian Dubé noted that the situation in the province has been stable for the last week, but asked Quebecers not to let their guard down as spring break begins.
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“It’s not the moment to relax our efforts,” he wrote on Twitter.
The province will kick off its mass vaccination program in earnest on Monday, with several large clinics in the Montreal area opening their doors to residents age 80 and older who have booked appointments through the province’s website.
In the rest of the province, the vaccination appointments are being accepted for those born in or before 1936.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Saturday that the start of the mass vaccination campaign was giving him “a lot of hope,” even as he expressed concern about spring break week and the spread of new variants.
He urged Quebecers to remain vigilant for the coming weeks to allow the province to vaccinate more people, and to wait for immunity to fully develop in those who have received a shot.