Allison Hanes: Omicron is putting a brake on the Christmas spirit

A new variant of COVID-19 is spreading around the world just in time for Christmas gatherings. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

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It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

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After last year’s thwarted vacation plans, a long winter of curfews, and an anxious wait to get vaccinated against COVID-19, this Christmas was supposed to be more festive. We were supposed to be able to get together with family and friends now that many of us have taken two or even three doses. We were supposed to be able to celebrate the approval of vaccines for children between the ages of five and 11, and many were quick to take a first hit before the holidays to keep their loved ones as safe as possible.

But Omicron may put a stop to some of those plans.

The new variant, which was only detected in recent weeks thanks to the quick thinking and proactivity of southern African officials, is already here in Quebec, Health Minister Christian Dubé said on Monday. The province’s first case was found in a traveler returning from Nigeria, according to Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health. Two other people in Ottawa with confirmed cases transited the Montreal airport upon arrival in Canada, Ontario’s medical director of health said.

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As the World Health Organization called risk of the new “very high” variant With many governments struggling to ban flights from affected countries, Omicron has managed to stay one step ahead and show that the pandemic is not over yet.

The timing couldn’t be worse. The first square of the Advent calendar hasn’t even opened. So far, only two Hanukkah candles have been lit. The authorities are already urging “hypervigilance”, caution, prudence and all those other words of vigilance that we thought were a thing of the past.

“Even if we want to leave everything behind, we have to respect sanitary measures,” Dubé said. “I know that I am repeating myself. I know you’re sick of hearing this. “

Arruda warned that the next two weeks will be critical. Scientists need time to determine if the new variant is more transmissible, virulent or resistant to vaccines. Right now, it is too early to know if it is more dangerous or how fast it could spread. Until he sees how things unfold, Arruda said he can’t approve of any advice on how Quebecers can safely enjoy the Christmas season. Therefore, you will not make any recommendations before December 6.

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Instead of getting into the Christmas spirit, Quebecers may now be experiencing déjà-vu beginning in 2020, when the government essentially canceled Christmas after overly optimistic signing four days of fun too early. They told us that if we made sacrifices at that time, we would help ensure that our loved ones were present to celebrate with us this year.

Just when we thought it was safe to fly or visit distant relatives, Dubé is urging the public to avoid international travel again. For those who have planned trips abroad, there is not only the health risk, but also the possibility of the federal government introducing more onerous screening measures, quarantine rules, or even international travel restrictions without notice.

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Quebec is not reversing any of its recently eased restrictions for the time being. Just two weeks ago, he ended the ban on karaoke and dancing in bars, lifted capacity limits for dining at restaurants, and opened up the possibility of a full house for Canadiens games at the Bell Center. But on Monday, Dubé reminded Quebecers about the existing 10-person limit for private gatherings in homes and chalets. This, he stressed, is where people really let their guard down, posing a more significant risk of transmission than in controlled locations.

The government has wisely waited to release any parameters for this year’s Christmas gatherings, apparently to avoid raising and frustrating expectations. But that won’t stop us from being disappointed if the situation deteriorates.

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The prospect of reintroducing stricter public health measures or having to end Christmas entirely could be overwhelming for Quebec officials. In Europe, where outbreaks have forced authorities to order new closures, there has been a backlash, even violence . And that was before Omicron poked his head out.

The hardest European countries hit by a fifth wave crest of COVID-19 are also those with the lowest vaccination rates, which at least offers a justification for a stronger intervention. In Quebec, we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. Case counts have increased, but not drastically. Vaccines are only just available for school-age children, but already a third of eligible children have booked appointments.

“We have to learn to live with the virus,” Dubé said Monday.

That’s certainly not the Christmas message we were hoping to hear.

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Reference-montrealgazette.com

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