More restrictions expected in Quebec ahead of New Year’s Eve

December 30, 2021
More restrictions expected in Quebec ahead of New Year's Eve

Premier François Legault will hold a news conference this evening on the spread of COVID-19 in the province, where he is expected to announce new restrictions ahead of New Year’s Eve.

The news conference will start at 5 p.m. Legault will be presenting alongside Health Minister Christian Dubé and the director of public health, Dr. Horacio Arruda.

You will be able to watch the news conference here live.

Radio-Canada sources say the government is likely to announce new restrictions after Quebec reported 14,188 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, its highest number of confirmed daily cases since the start of the pandemic.

Projections released by Quebec’s national health-care research institute, the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS), show the number of hospitalizations could reach between 1,600 and 2,100 in a matter of three weeks.

The current hospital capacity for treating COVID-19 patients across the province is at 1,252, according to the latest data dashboard published by the Health Ministry on Twitter. The capacity has gone up by a few hundred beds, as several elective surgeries and other non-urgent procedures are being delayed or cancelled to free up staff. 

Thursday, there were 939 people in hospital with the disease, including 138 in intensive care. The INESSS projections predict that the number of people in intensive care could rise to 375 in three weeks. Right now, the capacity for intensive care beds for COVID-19 is at 319. 

Government sources told Radio-Canada that officials are considering imposing a curfew, as was done in early 2021 until the end of May, but have not made a final decision. 

Indoor gatherings with other households are expected to be prohibited; restaurant dining rooms could be closed and the return to school could also be further delayed, according to Radio-Canada sources.

Before the holidays, Dubé announced elementary students would return to class on Jan. 10 and that high school students would do remote learning until that date. 

Lack of data supporting use of curfew

Benoit Barbeau, a virologist in the department of biological sciences at the Université du Québec à Montréal, said he is concerned imposing a curfew just before New Year’s Eve would only have the effect of discouraging Quebecers. 

“It would be extremely difficult for Quebecers to accept that kind of demand,” Barbeau said, suggesting that if the government is to go ahead with such a measure to do so after Jan. 1, to have a better chance of people following it.

Barbeau said there is a lack of data showing just how much a curfew curbs transmission, if at all.

Instead, the virologist said the focus should be on reducing capacity in businesses and restaurants, and to delay the return to classes after the holiday break. 

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