Quebec is relatively stable at the moment amid an evolving fourth wave of the pandemic but COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations will likely rise in the coming weeks, the province’s health minister said Tuesday.
Christian Dubé vowed the government will closely monitor the epidemiological situation as students of all ages head back to class. Projections, he said, show that novel coronavirus infections and the number of patients could go up, particularly in Montreal and Laval.
“The month of September will be decisive,” he said.
The good news is that hospitalizations aren’t nearly as high as they previously were when other waves gripped the province, Dubé said. He credited the vaccine for the change, but urged people to keep abiding by sanitary measures to limit the virus from spreading.
Quebec’s health network is currently anywhere between 15 to 25 per cent of its capacity depending on the region but that can “change very quickly,” he said.
“What we want, above all, is to limit hospitalizations,” Dubé said.
Dubé was joined by Horacio Arruda, director of Quebec public health as well as Daniel Paré, head of the inoculation campaign, for the press conference in Montreal.
The update also comes as proof of vaccination will be required to access certain non-essential services, including restaurants, gyms and bars as of Wednesday. Quebecers 13 and older must be fully vaccinated to take part in certain activities.
“We are ready for tomorrow,” Dubé said.
Dubé said there will be a two-week grace period during which penalties for non-compliance will not be applied.
“The next two weeks are going to be, as we often say, rock ‘n’ roll,” Dubé said about vaccine passports. “I want to be transparent: for some people, it’s relatively easy, but for others, it’s more complicated.”
Quebec will closely monitor how the rollout of the vaccine passport system will go, he added, saying the province will “adjust before considering expanding it.” When he was asked about what a possible expansion could entail, Dubé said had received many questions from employers about the passport.
He said many Quebecers are asking whether restrictions can be eased once the vaccine passport system is in effect. “We need to do it gradually,” Dubé said. “We have a lot of demands to (ease measures), but we need to see how the return to school will go.”
Meanwhile, the Health Department on Tuesday announced that people who can’t get vaccinated due to medical reasons will still be offered a vaccine passport. It said in a separate news release that “everything is ready” for the start to the vaccine passport system.
The health minister also encouraged Quebecers to sign up for their shots of the vaccine if they haven’t already, calling it the “best way to protect against the fourth wave.”
Dubé added that people, whether they are vaccinated or not, should go get tested if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.
— With files from The Canadian Press