Wearing a mask in public places will remain compulsory until mid-May

MONTREAL — Quebec may have reached the peak of the sixth wave, but the situation remains uncertain and it is still too early to proceed with the last health relief, which was to come into effect at the end of April.

Quebecers will indeed have to remain masked in public places and public transport until mid-May.

This was announced on Thursday by the Ministry of Health following a recommendation from public health, taking into account the epidemiological situation which still prevails.

“The data shows us that the transmission of the virus may have started to slow down, even perhaps we would have already reached a certain plateau, if not a peak, of transmission in general, but we still observe that it is not clear in all age groups and in particular for people aged 70 and over where we still see a progression, a progression in the region of Montreal and the regions around, whether it is Laval, Estrie, the Outaouais too, ”explained the acting national director of public health, Doctor Luc Boileau, on Thursday.

He thus showed moderate optimism, adding that the progression of new hospitalizations seemed less rapid than two weeks ago, and that the same is true for the absences of health care workers.

The projections of the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services (INESSS) also show a stabilization in the number of hospitalizations for the next two weeks.

A variant that hits less hard

At his side, Assistant Deputy Minister Lucie Opatrny explained that even if the number of people hospitalized now exceeds 2,400, the situation is completely different from that of January. “The majority of those 2,400 people have a secondary diagnosis of COVID. They are there for something else,” she said.

“Those who are there for COVID, their disease is less severe and their length of stay is shorter,” she continued, adding that the proportion of those who had to be treated in intensive care was also much lower than. in January, or “less than 5%”.

“The disease, even when you are hospitalized, tends to be less severe. The effect on load shedding is much less than for the same number of hospitalizations in January.

The flu comes in

On the other hand, Dr. Boileau pointed out that there is also a resurgence of influenza activity in the population. “We didn’t really need that and it’s pretty rare to see such flu activity at this time of year,” he said.

“This is the first time since the start of the pandemic that we have seen both (COVID and influenza) at the same time”, noted Dr. Opatrny, which creates “significant pressure” on emergencies, pressure which is aggravated by the rate of absenteeism of health workers.

She reports stretcher occupancy rates, especially in Greater Montreal emergency rooms, of 110%, 115% and even 150%, which had not been seen since the start of the pandemic.

However, she specified, “the level of load shedding is lower in Greater Montreal, it is more level 2, versus elsewhere in Quebec, where it is more level 3 overall. On the other hand, emergency room occupancy levels are lower in these regions.

The Assistant Deputy Minister explained that emergency room overflows are attributable to the fact that people on stretchers are waiting for a hospital bed, “and that is directly related to the availability of beds which, she, is linked to the level of absence or presence of human resources”.

Although the situation has improved compared to last week, when 13,000 professionals were reported absent, there were still more than 10,000 missing as of Thursday in the network.

Holidays for professionals

Despite everything, Ms Opatrny assures us that everything will be done to give them a break this summer. “Caregivers are tired. (…) They have been working in this difficult context for two years”, she said.

“We think vacations are important and we will be able to give them away. Obviously, we have to counterbalance that with the desire we have to enhance activities to catch up in all the different sectors where there is some catching up to do.” In other words, even if COVID and the flu were to give them a chance, the backlog in all other sectors will continue to weigh heavily.

Probable rise in the fall

In the longer term, Luc Boileau does not want to make predictions, even if he expects COVID to continue to behave like other respiratory viruses.

“There is hardly anyone who is going to have the audacity to make (predictions). If there are any, don’t believe them,” he first warned.

“It would be normal to have seasonal variations. In all likelihood, there could be an increase in the fall, but it is not the current intention to consider bringing back measures”, he took care to add.

Finally, Mr. Boileau announced changes for immunosuppressed people, noting that their period of isolation in the event of symptoms of COVID-19 will be reduced from 21 days to 10 days.

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