Despite the closures of businesses and a social life on hiatus for millions of Quebecers, the number of COVID-19 cases in Quebec is not falling. This is a problem for the Legault government, which wants to give Quebeckers a gift for Christmas when the health care system is “at the end of its rope”.
“We must be proud of having been able to stabilize the cases in Quebec. But we are stagnating now. With the cold weather coming quickly, what’s the plan to reduce the cases? »Asks Dr Quoc Nguyen, who sums up the questioning of many citizens.
For several weeks, Quebec has been on a “plateau” of approximately 1000 cases per day, an unsustainable level in the long term for the health system. The peak of the propagation index, the “R”, is stuck at “1”. For community transmission to weaken, it must be at 0.9.
But what more can we do when we live in the red zone and remain cloistered at home? Not much, answer the experts. It is especially employers and delinquents who can make the difference.
“We could do as in the spring and close everything except essential services. The difficulty is to control the epidemic while maintaining a certain level of contact. We just have to close the schools and in two weeks we return to 200 cases per day. But we don’t want to do that, because we know the harmful effects on children, ”notes epidemiologist Benoît Mâsse, professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal.
“The only places where you can have contact in the red zone is at school and at work. This is where we have to intervene, we have to better protect workers, ”said Mr. Mâsse.
And Quebec knows it. For a week, the Minister of Labor Jean Boulet, launched an inspection blitz. First observation: construction is particularly at risk: nearly 100% of the sites visited were found to be faulty. Of the 303 interventions in the construction industry, 301 ended with notices of corrections.
“It’s very varied: problem of wearing a mask, lack of social distancing, especially during breaks, meals and in the bathroom. Human nature is what it is. There is a certain fatigue of the rules ”, affirms Minister Boulet in an interview. Quebec asks employers to add physical barriers and insist on wearing masks at all times, for example.
Other sectors such as retail businesses and slaughterhouses are also under close surveillance. Professor Benoît Mâsse believes that if the stagnation continues, Quebec will have to consider closing shopping centers and businesses. “But all it takes is a tiny bit of effort to make it start to go downhill,” he said.
Another place where we can collectively make a difference is to convince the 25% of Quebecers who follow the rules less, notes Dr. Gaston De Serres, doctor-epidemiologist at the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec. “Some people have to do some soul-searching: if you continue to receive people at home, that helps transmission,” he says.
And time is running out. The government wants to give Quebeckers a break at Christmas. This week, the Prime Minister said that with “the holidays, I really hope, and I’m sure in 28 days, we may not be able to have a big party, but at least see our families”.
But at 1000 cases per day, this is not possible according to Benoît Masse. “If we are still at the same level in mid-December, it will be very difficult to give this candy. It has to be under control so that exceptions are allowed, on December 24 and 25 and January 31 and 1, for example, ”he says.
Gaston De Serres also underlines that the question of the holiday season will arise “everywhere in the world”. “If, suddenly, Quebecers do as usual and crowd 50 in a house, it will give a significant boost to the pandemic. Between that and nothing at all, there is room for maneuver, and it will depend on our current efforts, ”he adds.
Prevention-inspection blitz linked to Covid-19
- Health sector: 49
- Shops: 173
- Construction: 303
- Manufacturing: 136
- Tourism: 25
- Health sector: 0
- Shops: 28
- Construction: 301
- Manufacturing: 27