Doctors and other health-care professionals are calling for tightened public health restrictions in Montreal as the province reports the highest daily tally of new COVID-19 cases since January.
Quebec saw 1,314 new cases and five additional deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus Friday while some cities entered a fresh wave of lockdown measures as the third wave sets in.
Under the plan, schools and non-essential businesses are closed for at least 10 days in Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau. Curfew has also been rolled back to 8 p.m. in those areas, where infections are quickly rising.
The group behind the demand, called COVID STOP, warns that a similar shutdown is needed in Montreal to stem the tide of the virus.
Microbiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. Amir Khadir, who is also a former Quebec MNA, says that physicians in hospitals are seeing variants gain steam.
“Half measures worsen the problem and do not solve anything,” said Khadir.
The province’s public health institute said Friday the majority of new cases in Quebec likely involve variants of concern.
Over the past week, 57.1 per cent of screening tests for variants have been positive, according to the Institut national de santé publique du Québec.
Dr. Don Sheppard, an infectious disease physician with the McGill University Health Centre and medical microbiologist, says that COVID-19 variants are not only more infections, but that data shows they cause more severe disease.
Quebec recently allowed gyms, theatres and concerts halls to reopen with limitations. Places of worship are also allowed to accommodate 250 people. But Sheppard is one of the health experts wondering why the government loosened restrictions.
“Doing things like allowing 250 people to gather in an indoor space makes absolutely no sense when cases are on the rise,” he said.
On Friday, the number of pandemic-related hospitalizations also jumped by 16 to 503. This includes 121 patients in intensive care units, a rise of two from the previous day.
The vaccination campaign saw another 48,507 shots administered. Since December, the province has given more than 1.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses.
When it comes to coronavirus screening, 39,886 tests were conducted Wednesday.
The latest numbers bring Quebec’s caseload to 313,676, while recoveries have now surpassed 293,000. The death toll stands at 10,681.
With infections and hospitalizations on the rise, the province’s health minister says the government is following the situation “very closely.”
Christian Dubé also urged Quebecers to “make a difference” by adhering to restrictions and limiting contact with others.
“The finish line is not very far away, so don’t be discouraged now that we are so close to the goal,” he wrote on social media.
— With files from Global News’ Tim Sargeant and The Canadian Press