The city’s director of public health said Wednesday that Montreal is preparing a method to “contain” COVID-19 cases linked to the Omicron variant of the new coronavirus, including procedures actively to isolate cases and trace contacts.
Dr. Mylene Drouin told reporters that public health will take a similar approach to the one that helped the city fight a third wave of COVID-19 in the spring. The most notable change, she added, is that people who come into contact with an Omicron case will have to self-isolate even if they are fully vaccinated.
“What we’re going to do is we’re going to be more aggressive when it comes to the case,” she said.
“The contacts around those cases will be isolated even though they’ve been double-vaccinated and we’ll see when we have more information on the characteristics of this variant if we even have to go to contacts, to expand the people that we will isolate. “
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Drouin said officials will also be more prompt in closing classrooms or workplaces in the event of possible exposure to this variant.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Quebec has confirmed one case of the Omicron variant. Drouin said the case involved a person from Montreal who had been vaccinated twice and had no symptoms, and who she said was unlikely to infect anyone else in the city.
Drouin’s update comes as Quebec reported a spike in COVID-19 infections, with nearly 1,200 new infections on Wednesday. In addition to 1,196 new cases, the province also reported two more deaths from the new coronavirus.
She said Montreal’s case count has increased steadily over the past five weeks, to about 250 a day, but she said the number of hospitalizations in the city has remained stable or even declined slightly. Drouin said current case levels are similar to those at the peak of the fourth wave in September, adding that she expects them to soar over the next several weeks as people gather indoors.
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Sonia Belanger, head of the regional health agency representing south-central Montreal, said the city plans to free up about 500 hospital beds if the variant causes a spike in cases.
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Drouin said officials still don’t know much about the Omicron variant, and they don’t yet know if it’s more contagious or virulent than previous strains. She notes that the “suppressive” approach she is planning is primarily designed to buy time for the variation and will be difficult to contain if it starts to go viral.
Earlier, on Wednesday, Health Minister Christian Dube said health authorities expected cases across the province to increase after certain restrictions are eased in November, but Dube said. during a press conference that the government did not want the daily number to rise even higher during the holiday season, when Quebeers are expected to gather indoors.
“What I want Quebeers to remember is that we need to keep those numbers low so we can get Christmas right in time, not just for us but for the people who work in the hospital,” he said. .
“So there’s nothing to panic about, but we need to be really vigilant over the next few weeks.”
Dube declined to answer several questions about whether the high number would affect the rules around Christmas gatherings. He said the increase in cases was problematic because children between the ages of 5 and 11 were just getting vaccinated and because most adults had not yet received a booster dose. The number of people hospitalized in the province increased by about 10 days, he said.
According to provincial data, health workers have administered more than 23,000 doses of the vaccine in the previous 24 hours. About 12,000 of those are intended for children under 12, and another 6,123 are intended for people 70 and older.
Both Drouin and Dube say the campaign to vaccinate children under 12 is going well. However, Mr. Drouin said currently, authorities are only capable of sending mobile vaccination teams to about half of the city’s primary schools. She urged more parents to take their children to mass vaccination centers so they can be protected as soon as possible.
Dube said officials in the province have not identified any new cases linked to the Omicron variant of the new coronavirus, adding that authorities are screening all positive cases as of today. Tuesday for that worrisome variation.
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