Quebec is reporting its highest number of hospitalizations and intensive care cases due to COVID-19 since the second wave.
The province reported 1,537 new infections on Saturday as hospitalizations rose by 28 to 692, and 175 people are in intensive care — an increase of eight.
The figures mark the highest number of hospitalizations since Feb. 19 and the highest number of ICU cases since Feb. 3.
Authorities say eight more virus-related deaths were added to the toll, including five in the last 24 hours.
Montreal led the way with 375 new COVID-19 infections, followed by the Chaudière-Appalaches region with 224, Quebec City with 205, Montérégie with 203, Outaouais with 164, the Laurentians with 78 and Laval with 65.
The province says it administered 70,908 doses of the vaccine on Friday, for a total of 2,297,411.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said Quebec will soon deploy sound trucks in hard-hit Montreal neighbourhoods to announce the presence of mobile clinics offering Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.
Dubé said the megaphone-equipped trucks will blast messages in multiple languages along residential streets in western Montreal and in the city’s diverse Côte-des-Neiges borough to encourage residents to receive one of 20,000 doses available without an appointment over the weekend, adding that the AstraZeneca vaccine is for those 55 and over.
This comes as both the Quebec and Ontario governments announced they would close their provincial borders with one another in an effort to tighten movement between the provinces as the variant-driven third wave continues to hit parts of the country west of the Maritimes.
The Ontario government unveiled several new COVID-19 restrictions aimed at curbing record-high cases in the province, including increased police powers, provincial border checkpoints and restricting outdoor gatherings.
Quebec has reported a total of 335,608 COVID-19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic and 10,793 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus. More than 311,047 infected people have recovered.
–with files from the Canadian Press