Since the start of the pandemic, Quebec has counted more than 11,300 deaths linked to COVID-19. Out of a total population of approximately 8.5 million, it is therefore approximately one in 753 Quebecers who lost their life after contracting the virus.
For the country as a whole with more than 27,600 deaths, the per capita death rate from COVID-19 is one in 1,388 Canadians. These proportions “are a bit”, but they are not surprising for the virology expert Benoit Barbeau.
“The statistics mainly evoke our first confrontation with the virus and then our first failures which showed that at many levels, we were ill-prepared to protect ourselves well, identify and monitor a respiratory virus of the kind which is transmitted quite efficiently” , suggests the professor in the department of biological sciences at UQAM.
One of these failures that still stick to the Quebec balance sheet is found in CHSLDs and private seniors’ residences. The first wave was particularly devastating because of the multiple outbreaks in these establishments, where a large part of the deaths occurred, says Dr Gaston De Serres.
“And this was subsequently corrected. There were still outbreaks, but never of the same magnitude and the same frequency as at the start of the pandemic, ”argues the doctor-epidemiologist at the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec.
Mr. Barbeau recalls that in the spring of 2020, Montreal was the epicenter of the pandemic in the country with a massive entry of the virus, possibly explaining the higher death rate per capita in Quebec.
The two experts also note certain shortcomings in management and preparation during the first months of the health crisis: absence of an emergency committee, insufficient amount of protective equipment, a less flexible health system and a lack of knowledge regarding transmission.
“We had a certain exaggerated confidence in our capacity because we are in a G7 country with exemplary medical knowledge and infrastructures that could respond very quickly. We realized that a virus can in a few moments show you to what extent you have faults in your system, ”underlines Benoit Barbeau, specifying that other countries have also been confronted with these shortcomings.
Quebec, however, learned from these errors and then adopted more stringent health measures, allowing it to better cross the third wave unlike other provinces, explains Mr. Barbeau.
One in 500 Americans
Among our neighbors to the south, the frequency of deaths per capita is even more marked. One in 500 Americans has died from coronavirus after the country passed 663,000 dead, the Washington Post recently reported.
Calculated based on the number of reported cases of COVID-19, the U.S. death rate is similar to that of Canada. Of 42 million infections so far in the United States, there has been one death per 62 reported cases. While with 1.6 million infections, Canada has one death for 60 reported cases, details Dr. De Serres.
“But since the United States has had so much more COVID than Canada, obviously the proportion of Americans who have been affected and the number of deaths per capita are much higher than in our country,” he summarizes.
The United States has been hit by “a tsunami,” says Mr. Barbeau, in particular due to political polarization surrounding public health issues and less adherence to health measures in some states.
“It was a big big wave which faded, but which suddenly resumes because it is the unvaccinated people who are the most infected”, indicates the virologist.
Being now much better equipped to face the virus, it would be “very unlikely” that Quebec would experience death levels similar to those of the first and second waves, argues Dr. DeSerres.
Vaccination coverage reaching more than 95% among the most vulnerable people and health measures still in place allow Quebec to fare better.
“Our ability to prevent fatalities is much better. Care has improved, there are things we now know about how to treat people with serious COVID that leads to hospitalization. So there have been reductions in case fatality rates, ”adds the doctor-epidemiologist.
However, unknowns remain regarding the transformation of the virus, said Mr. Barbeau. According to him, there are many scenarios as to the properties of future variants.
“Right now, we are seeing the changes are relatively in the same places on the spike, which can comfort us that there may be some limits to what the virus can do,” he says. But, we are at the beginning of seeing what the virus can afford in front of a highly vaccinated population. “
Santé-Québec has reported five new deaths linked to COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 11,354. Of the 31 people admitted to hospital, 25 were not adequately vaccinated. Neither were the six people newly admitted to intensive care.