Montreal’s COVID-19 game plan: clamp down on variants, vaccinate en masse

Montreal Public Health Director Dr. Mylene Drouin gives an update on the Coronavirus situation in the city during a news conference in Montreal, on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Montreal health authorities are prioritizing clamping down on the spread of the novel coronavirus variants and ramping up mass vaccinations in the city for the month of March as the pandemic stretches into the one-year mark.

Dr. Mylène Drouin, director of the local public health department, explained aggressive screening and administering the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to seniors will go a long way in keeping the health crisis under the control.

“Knowing that we may be seeing a third wave ahead of us, it’s important to protect the most vulnerable population as soon as possible,” she told reporters Wednesday.

The situation in Montreal, which has been a hot spot for the virus, is improving, she added. Drouin explained that while COVID-19 indicators are on the downturn, the concern continues to lie with variants, which are considered to be more transmissible. All positive cases in the city are being screened for variants.

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READ MORE: Quebec pharmacies will start administering COVID-19 vaccines this month

As of this week, about 15 per cent of new cases in Montreal are linked to variants. Health authorities say there are 43 outbreaks linked to variants in schools — but 26 of those schools only have one case.

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School-age children and their parents account for the majority of all new cases in the city, according to Drouin.

“Our strategy, of course, is really to slow down the progression (of variants),” Drouin said.

In Montreal, vaccinations are now being given to anyone over the age of 70. The province’s inoculation campaign initially targeted long-term care homes, seniors residences, health-care workers and people in remote regions before it was expanded to the general public.

Lynne McVey, CEO of the CIUSSS Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, says more than 20,000 Montrealers have been vaccinated since Monday. She urged people to only show up 10 minutes before their appointment to prevent crowding at vaccination sites.

“We hope to avoid lineups and make the experience pleasant, especially for our elderly populations,” she said.

READ MORE: Quebec’s life expectancy drops for both men and women due to COVID-19 crisis

More vaccination sites will continue to open in the city as the government opens vaccination to other age groups, according to McVey.

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While health officials are pleased that seniors are beginning to get their first shot, they are asking people to stay vigilant in the coming weeks. Montreal is still a designated red zone, where stricter lockdown measures remain in effect, including a nightly curfew.

Drouin stresses that being careful also means abiding by public health orders — including practicing physical distancing and wearing masks — to protect themselves and others.

“Out of solidarity for the people who are not vaccinated, I think it’s important to keep those measures in place,” Drouin said.

Click to play video: 'Pharmacists to begin vaccinating for COVID-19 in Montreal'
Pharmacists to begin vaccinating for COVID-19 in Montreal

With files from The Canadian Press

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