Quebec is on the right track as it prepares to lift its COVID-19 mask mandate later this week, the province’s interim public health director said Wednesday.
Luc Boileau said indicators like hospitalizations and the number of health-care workers off the job due to the pandemic are on the downswing.
“We have to say that the epidemiological situation is going in the right direction,” he told reporters in Montreal.
Boileau said “all the signs are very encouraging,” but health officials will continue to closely monitor the virus’ progression in the coming weeks. They will also keep an eye on possible variants of COVID-19 around the world.
“It shows we were right to prudently go slow,” he said about removing restrictions, such as the mask mandate.
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Quebec’s wide mask mandate will be lifted as planned on May 14 and it will be the last province to remove the measure. They are still recommended in public places, notably for seniors and vulnerable people.
Masks will continue to be require on public transit and certain health-care facilities, including hospitals and long-term care homes.
The update comes as the number of hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 in the province is expected to steadily decline over the next two weeks, according to a provincial health research institute.
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The Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux projects that within two weeks, the number of people with the disease hospitalized outside of intensive care is expected to decline to about 1,068 patients.
The latest projections also show that the number of COVID-19 intensive care cases will drop to about 35.
During that same period, officials expect to be seeing about 55 new hospitalizations per day linked to the disease.
Dr. Gaston De Serres, an epidemiologist with the Quebec’s public health institute (INSPQ), said he expects the number of hospitalizations and deaths will keep falling.
“We expect that in May and early June, both the number of hospitalizations and deaths will continue to go down,” he said.
“And hopefully by the beginning of the summer, we’ll be in a much quieter place.“
Summer has not only brought a drop in COVID-19 indicators in the past, but high vaccination rates and the Omicron-fuelled surge of infections could also benefit the province in the warm months.
“We have far more people who have been vaccinated, far many more that have been infected, all contributing to the immunity in the population blocking transmission,” De Serres said. “So all these factors add up to probably give us a quiet summer.”
Hospitalizations fall to under 1,900
Quebec recorded 23 pandemic-related deaths and a 54-patient drop Wednesday.
Hospitalizations stood at 1,847 after 111 admissions and 165 discharges in the last day. There were 62 patients being treated for the disease in intensive care units, a decrease of four.
The province also reported 1,101 new novel coronavirus cases based on PCR screening, which is limited to certain groups. On that note, 16,440 tests were administered at government-run sites.
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Meanwhile, the population declared the results of 259 self tests in the latest update. Of those rapid tests, 198 were positive.
The province doled out another 18,786 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the past 24 hours. More than 19.6 million shots have been given to date.
As of Wednesday, 6,511 health-care workers were absent from work due to the virus. That is down from 13,000 in mid-April.
Quebec has seen 1,054,510 official cases over the course of the pandemic while the death toll has reached 15,201.
— with files from Global News’ Olivia O’Malley and The Canadian Press
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