With the start of the provincewide curfew on Friday and most stores shuttered on Sunday, New Year’s weekend came and went quietly in Quebec.
The restrictions announced by the province ahead of the weekend — aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 — forced many Quebecers to cancel celebrations and spend their evenings at home. Most appeared to do just that, save for a few dozen who gathered outside of Premier François Legault’s office to protest against the curfew on Saturday .
One person was arrested for assaulting a police officer and 57 were fined in connection with the event, according to Montreal police. Curfew fines range from $1,000 to $6,000 for adults and $500 for teenagers above the age of 14.
While most of the province’s lockdown rules resemble those in place during the second and third waves of the pandemic, there was public outcry over the weekend when Quebecers noticed the province removed its curfew exemption for dog-walking (within a kilometre of the home).
“As currently drafted in the ministerial decree, the fact of leaving your residence to walk your dog is not one of the exceptions to go out outside of curfew hours,” the ministry of Health and Social Services said in an email to Presse Canadienne.
“However, it is the government’s intention to include this missing exception again as soon as possible,” said spokesperson Marie-Hélène Émond.
In addition to the curfew, the province announced on Friday a ban on private gatherings, the closure of restaurant dining rooms, a delay of the return to school and the closure of non-essential stores for three Sundays.
On Sunday, the seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 cases in Quebec reached an all-time high of 13,976 as the province reported 15,845 more infections on Sunday and a record 17,122 on Saturday. A total of 636,035 cases have now been confirmed in the province since the start of the pandemic, and a record 101,063 of those are currently active.
The positivity rate for COVID-19 tests in Quebec now stands at 30.9 per cent. Positive results from at-home rapid tests are not factored into that figure, however.
Quebec also announced 21 more fatalities attributed to the virus on the weekend, bringing the provincial death toll to 11,745.
As expected by health officials, hospitalizations in Quebec are on the rise. Another 98 were added Saturday and 70 on Sunday, bringing the total to 1,231 patients — more than double the number reported a week ago. Of them, 162 are in intensive care — a number that has doubled in two weeks.
Health Minister Christian Dubé, who shared a summary of hospital admissions and discharges on Twitter Sunday, reiterated his hope that hospitalizations continue to trend downward over the coming days and weeks while the province is shut down .https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1477685556083634177&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fmontrealgazette.com%2Fnews%2Fquebec%2Fquebec-reports-15845-covid-19-cases-13-more-deaths&sessionId=21b568fb0450510d8e0e2fa0159dcfd3e7246dd6&theme=light&widgetsVersion=9fd78d5%3A1638479056965&width=550px
Tableau sommaire intéressant de @SylvainLacroi13 qui résume bien les entrées et les sorties dans les hôpitaux . A suivre pour voir si cette tendance se confirme dans les prochains jours. On souhaite tous que ces courbes passent sous 0 et réduire la pression sur le réseau pic.twitter.com/T8SFs6aMFI— Christian Dubé (@cdube_sante) January 2, 2022
Following a reorganization of resources to free up COVID-19 beds in hospitals, Quebec currently has a capacity of just under 1,600. A final reorganization — which would be considered Level 4 — could potentially be implemented in the future to make more room.
In Quebec City, resources are being significantly reorganized at the CHU de Québec-Université Laval, where medical appointments and operating room activities will be nearly cut in half as of Wednesday.
Only 27 operating rooms out of 48 will be available so around 60 nurses can be reallocated to COVID-19 patients, hospital president Martin Beaumont said Sunday.
In-person medical appointments will also be cut in half as it deals with a shortage of medical staff, though Beaumont said the hospital hasn’t taken the step of bringing back employees who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Beaumont asked for the population to “help us with patience and comprehension” as “the elastic is being stretched to the point where we can see white in the middle.”
Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, for its part, took a break on New Year’s Day, when just 190 doses were administered. Of them, 176 were booster shots.
As of Sunday, 89 per cent of Quebecers at least five years old have received a first dose of vaccine; 82 per cent, a second; and 17 per cent, a third.
La Presse Canadienne contributed to this report.