New COVID Variant Has Québécois Worried About A Summer Lockdown

Quebec is seeing a rise in cases and hospitalizations from the new Omicron sub-variant

 Quebec is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations driven by new Omicron sub-variants that account for about 75 percent of infections. The province has seen a surge in COVID-related hospitalizations, outbreaks, community transmissions, and the number of healthcare workers off the job due to the virus. 

On June 29th, the province reported that COVID-19 hospitalizations rose by 34 in the previous 24 hours, after a 113-patient rise the day before. There were 1,260 people in the hospital with COVID-19 in Quebec, including 35 in intensive care. Health officials also reported four more deaths associated with the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec’s public health director, urges Quebecers to be vigilant amid an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. During a press conference on Wednesday, Dr. Luc Boileau stated that this increase is mainly attributable to the BA.2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5 variants, which he said make up 75 percent of the new cases in the province and are significantly more contagious than the original strain. 

Although this new strain is highly contagious, it is less severe; therefore, the health director is not sure if the province will be going into a seventh wave. He suggested people wear masks when gathering indoors and at crowded outdoor events, especially those in at-risk groups.

“If I were at an event, like a festival, I would wear a mask,” Boileau said.

He also recommended that those at higher risk consider getting a booster shot if they haven’t already done so. 

Experts believe that numerous factors are contributing to the resurgence of covid-19 cases. Dr. Jean Longtin, a microbiologist with the Quebec Health Ministry, issued a statement saying “Definitely the lifting of public health measures, we knew, we expected it would have an impact because masks are quite efficient.” Longtin added waning immunity, either from past infection or vaccination, also plays a factor. When asked why mask mandates haven’t been reinstated, he indicated that health officials believe the situation has become more of a personal responsibility to manage risk. 

Another expert, epidemiologist Dr. Prativa Baral states that the trend we see of the increase in COVID-19 cases is “worrisome.” She also believes that the emergence of more immune invasive sub-variants and the lack of masking requirements in crowded spaces increases the likelihood of re-infection, even if individuals have been adequately vaccinated or have previously contracted the virus. 

Even though the province thinks it is too soon to reinstate a mask mandate, public health officials recommend that immunocompromised individuals continue to wear their masks in public spaces. They are also reminding people to follow public health guidelines, such as distancing, washing hands, coughing, or sneezing into their elbow pits. 

In addition, those who are eligible for booster doses of the vaccine are invited to book appointments to have that administered as soon as possible. Other than these recommendations, it does not seem clear what Quebec’s plan is to prevent another lockdown.