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Quebec’s new restrictions take effect as the province records almost 8,000 new COVID-19 cases

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WATCH: Holiday plans on hold as Omicron variant takes over Quebec - Dec. 24, 2021 – Dec 26, 2021

New public health restrictions come into effect in Quebec Sunday as COVID-19 case counts soar in the province and across the country.

The province is capping private gatherings at six people or two family bubbles as of Boxing Day Sunday, after reporting more than 10,000 cases of the coronavirus on Christmas Eve and another 9,206 on Christmas Day.

Quebec reported about 8,000 cases on Boxing Day Sunday and three more virus-related deaths.

READ MORE: Omicron COVID-19 variant disrupts holiday travel with over 6,000 flights cancelled

Officials have said the daily numbers are likely an underestimation because the province’s testing centres are overwhelmed and can’t keep up with demand.

Details on COVID-19-related hospitalizations and vaccinations will be released next week.

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The highly infectious Omicron variant of the virus has been driving a surge in COVID-19 cases across much of Canada in recent weeks.

Ontario reported 9,826 new COVID-19 cases Boxing Day. Christmas Day was the third day in a row that Ontario broke its record for daily case counts with 10,412 infections.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has said Omicron has become the dominant variant in several provinces.

Premier François Legault warns tough weeks ahead

This comes as Quebec Premier François Legault warned of tough weeks ahead and asked people to be vigilant as they gather for the holidays.

In a Christmas message posted to social media on Christmas Eve, Legault said the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is more contagious than anything previously seen during the pandemic.

Legault called on Quebecers to reach out to those alone during the holidays or who are isolating because of a positive COVID-19 test result, and he acknowledged the courage and dedication of health workers.

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READ MORE: In Christmas message, Trudeau says ‘better days ahead’ despite difficult year

“The next few weeks are going to be difficult,” Legault wrote. “It will be very important to continue our efforts and to stick together, even if we are tired.”

Legault says the next few weeks will be difficult and that Quebecers will need to stick together to get through the latest wave.

Bars, movie theatres, gyms and entertainment venues were abruptly ordered to close earlier this week, while restaurants were permitted to stay open at 50 per cent capacity with a strict 10 p.m. closing time.

On Friday, Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon extended pandemic aid to restaurants.

READ MORE: ‘Jingle jabs’, cancelled flights: How COVID-19 has impacted Christmas around the world

Quebec has also tightened rules at long-term care homes and at seniors residences.

Residents of long-term care homes are allowed only two visitors a day. But they can have only one visitor at a time.

Private seniors’ residences can have two visitors at a time but are restricted to four people a day.

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Several hospitals, including two major health-care networks in Montreal, are also struggling with the surge in cases and said they would be restricting visitors starting Boxing Day.

The McGill University Health Centre said in a release it was limiting visitor access to the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal General Hospital and the Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital.

“For a two-week period, visits will only be allowed in end-of-life situations or based on the clinical judgment of the care team,” said the health centre Friday.

The University of Montreal Hospital Centre said visits to patients have been suspended, with exceptions to end-of-life care, medical assistance in dying and childbirth.

–with files from Alessia Simona Maratta, Global News

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