Summer may be underway but Quebecers need to exercise caution as COVID-19 indicators are on the rise, the province’s public health director announced Wednesday.
Dr. Luc Boileau gave an update on the situation, saying that the uptick in infections was foreseeable as sanitary restrictions were lifted.
Quebec is also dealing with the arrival of new variants of the novel coronavirus, which Boileau said are more transmissible but not necessarily more severe. The majority of new cases are linked to the new variants, he added.
“We’re asking people to be careful,” Boileau told reporters in Quebec City, adding that wearing a mask is still recommended — especially for high-risk groups, including the immunocompromised and the elderly.
While the mask mandate has been largely lifted, including on public transit, Boileau also suggested wearing one in crowds. That remains a personal choice though, he said.
The update comes as the health department on Wednesday reported 1,716 new cases based on PCR testing results and four deaths related to COVID-19.
There are 1,260 people hospitalized with the disease as of Wednesday, a rise of 34 compared with the previous day. This includes 35 patients in intensive care units.
In Quebec, the daily tally of infections and hospitalizations have been on the upswing. For example, the province counted 532 new cases and 1,029 hospitalizations on June 19.
A little more than a week later, the province’s daily tally on June 27 included 1,200 new cases and more than 1,200 hospital patients linked to COVID-19.
The province could continue to see an increase in the coming days or weeks before declining, Boileau said.
Quebec’s top doctor also pointed to a rise in the number of health-care workers off the job for pandemic-related reasons, such as awaiting test results and preventive isolation.
The latest update shows 6,285 employees absent from the network. This could complicate the situation for some institutions since it coincides with summer vacations, Boileau said.
“It’s an element that worries us given the precarious situation we have in hospitals during the summer,” he said.
With the resurgence in cases, Boileau urged people who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 to get their shots and high-risk groups to get their four dose. Meanwhile, anyone with symptoms should isolate.
He was also asked by reporters if there is a possibility of implementing restrictions to stop the spread of the virus again. Boileau responded that Quebec is “not at all on a path” to reimpose mask-wearing or other population-level measures.
“We’re not there and we’re not going there with the current variants,” Boileau said.
Dr. Don Vinh of the McGill University Health Centre would have liked for authorities to make masks mandatory indoors. Doing so would help protect workers in the health network, he said.
“If you tell people, ‘if you’re immunocompromised, you should be protecting yourself,’ that doesn’t protect health-care workers. That policy’s bunk.”
— with files from Global News’ Dan Spector and The Canadian Press