Quebec is reporting 900 new infections of the novel coronavirus Wednesday, bringing its total caseload to 81,914.
The health crisis has killed seven more people in the province. Health authorities say one death occurred in the last 24-hour period and the others have been added retroactively.
The death toll, which represents roughly more than half of Canada’s COVID-19 fatalities, stands at 5,906.
But what worries Quebec Premier François Legault is the sharp increase in the number of hospitalizations.
“The number of hospitalizations has doubled in the last two weeks,” he said during a briefing on the province’s COVID-19 response.
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On Wednesday, the total was 406 up from 168 two weeks ago. Of those patients, 62 are in intensive care, a decrease of five from the previous day.
“We know that the virus and its transmission is exponential, so if we do nothing, we can assume it will be 800 hospitalized cases in two weeks,” Legault said.
Legault warned the rise in hospitalizations is adding pressure to an already strained healthcare system.
“Our health system is already fragile, if we continue in the same way, there’s a risk we won’t be able to treat every Quebecer that needs it,” he said.
He justified imposing new restrictions in coronavirus red zones stating the status quo wasn’t an option.
“We must protect our schools and our economy as much as possible,” he said.
“I know it’s tough, but we don’t have a choice. We need to stop the contagion and to do that we need to reduce our contacts.”
The new numbers come as the premier reiterated the need for people to stay home as much as possible to stop the second wave of the virus.
“My message is clear and simple today, please stay home. You can go to school or to work, but otherwise stay home.” Legault said.
“That’s our goal right now, not to be popular but to save our health system.”
Surgery wait times could increase
According to data available on the Quebec government’s website, wait times for surgeries exceed six months in 44 per cent of the province’s 132,048 surgeries.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said if the second wave of the virus isn’t controlled, the backlog could become even greater.
“We don’t want additional delays but I think we will have no choice if the number of cases and hospitalizations continues to increase,” he said.
Dubé said the government’s goal is to minimize the impact on wait times for surgeries by making targeted choices, if and when necessary.
As an example he said, rather than shut down all operating theatres in a hospital, they would maybe only close one, depending on the situation.
Dubé said tough choices lie ahead and the priority will be on maintaining urgent care.
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Officials say 24,399 tests were conducted Monday, the latest day for which screening information is available. The province has given 2,525,315 tests to date.
Earlier Wednesday, the government said it will allow up to two people at a time to visit dying relatives in long-term care homes and will not limit the number of visits a patient can receive.
Visits to long-term care centres were prohibited during the first wave of the pandemic last spring.
— With files from the Canadian Press