The situation in hard-hit Montreal is stable, but authorities say adherence to public health orders and ramping up vaccinations will be key to delaying a prospective third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Mylène Drouin, director of the local public health department, explained that the region has struck a “high plateau” with an average of 325 new cases per day. Outbreaks and hospitalizations linked to the health crisis are also on a downswing.
“We haven’t seen a major impact of the March break with the transmission between families and in schools so that’s good news,” she told reporters Wednesday.
Variants of the novel coronavirus, which are considered to be more contagious, make up about 20 per cent of new cases in Montreal. Drouin says suppression measures — such as more aggressive screening and public health rules aimed at keeping the virus in check — have helped keep the variants at a plateau since Feb. 20.
Where variants are taking hold, however, are in the Côte Saint-Luc and Snowdon-Plamondon areas.
“The pattern of the transmission that we see is it goes from daycare centres and schools and then to homes,” she said, adding that then it spreads through the community.
In Montreal, one third of new outbreaks are in the workplace but there has been a drop in recent weeks. As of Wednesday, there are 22 outbreaks in health-care setting outbreaks, 35 in schools and 43 in daycares.
There are fewer hospitalizations related to the pandemic in the city. There are about 300 patients in Montreal, with 75 of them in intensive care units.
While the situation is improving compared to the beginning of the year, and Montrealers who are 65 and older are starting to get vaccinated, health authorities are concerned by the spread of variants and the declaration of a third wave in Ontario.
Drouin says that a third wave is coming and that it will be propelled by the U.K. variant, but efforts can help in delaying its arrival.
“I think we can push back this third wave by a few weeks,” Drouin said.
Even as some restrictions are lifted, Montrealers must keep abiding by public health measures and avoid gatherings, she said. The other way to limit the impacts of a third wave, according to Drouin, is to keep inoculating as many vulnerable people as possible.
As a result, public health authorities are urging anyone who is currently eligible to register for their first shot of the vaccine. So far, more than 280,000 people in Montreal have received their first dose.
“I think everyone has to take this vaccine and take the vaccine that is offered to them,” she said.