October 23, 2020

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Quebecers may have to reduce contacts even more, public health institute warns

People wear face masks as they walk along the promenade in the Old Port of Montreal, Monday, October 12, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. Quebec's public health institute says Quebecers may have to limit their contacts even more to reduce the number of new cases of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

People wear face masks as they walk along the promenade in the Old Port of Montreal, Monday, October 12, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. Quebec's public health institute says Quebecers may have to limit their contacts even more to reduce the number of new cases of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL - Quebecers may have to limit their contacts even more to reduce the number of new cases of COVID-19, according to the province's public health institute.

The province's partial lockdown helped prevent exponential growth in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the institute said in a report released Friday.

That avoided a return of the pandemic that could have been "quite catastrophic," said Dr. Jocelyne Sauve, the institute's vice-president of scientific affairs.

The measures introduced by the Quebec government, which banned indoor and outdoor private gatherings and shuttered bars and restaurant dining rooms, are effective, but they're not enough to completely flatten the curve, Sauve told reporters at a briefing on the report.

It will take an additional effort from the public to do that, she said.

The institute's projections show that the current regulations, which began taking effect Oct. 1 in Montreal and Quebec City and now apply in several other parts of the province, will only slow down the spread of the virus while the number of hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise.

It says that in order to reduce the number of new cases -- and the hospitalizations and deaths that come with them -- Quebecers will have to cut their contacts with others by 25 per cent.

The report comes the same day as a projection from another provincial government health research institute, which shows less pressure on the hospital system than there was a week ago and forecasts that Quebec hospitals won't run out of dedicated beds for COVID-19 patients during the next four weeks.

Health Minister Christian Dube said he doesn't see any contradiction between the two reports.

He told a news conference that both reports show that Quebec has done a good job at stabilizing the situation, but that more will have to be done to lower the number of cases reported every day.

"The data we're seeing today clearly shows that the sacrifices we've been making since Oct. 1 are working," he said.

The health-care system remains fragile, he said. Earlier this week, Quebec City's three largest teaching hospitals said they will soon have to start cancelling surgeries and out-patient appointments.

For hospitals, Dube said, "the next two weeks are critical."

While the partial lockdown in Quebec's "red zones" is scheduled to end on Oct. 28, Dube said things won't return to normal after that.

The government still wants to lift restrictions, he said, but it also doesn't want to create a "yo-yo" situation, where restrictions are lifted and then put back into place.

Quebec reported 1,055 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and 14 additional deaths. One death previously attributed to the virus was found to have been due to other causes.

Public health authorities in the province say 507 people are in hospital with COVID-19, including 87 in intensive care. The province has had a total of 91,018 confirmed cases and 6,018 deaths since the pandemic began.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2020.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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