Quebec to Ban High-Risk Activities and Reduce Store Capacity as COVID-19 Cases Rise | The Canadian News

Quebec announced a series of new measures on Thursday in an attempt to control the spread of the virus as COVID-19 cases rise and the Omicron variant advances.

Quebec reported 2,736 new infections, bringing the number of active cases to 17,400.

“I have no good news,” Quebec Prime Minister Francois Legault told a news conference Thursday night to address the rising numbers.

Legault said preliminary figures to be released on Friday show 3,700 new infections. The highest number of daily cases to date was 2,880 in January 2021.

To reduce the number of cases, Legault said Quebecers have to reduce contacts.

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Starting Monday, all stores will operate at 50 percent capacity. The new measure will also apply to bars, restaurants, amphitheaters, cinemas and gyms.

Legault said places of worship would also have to reduce capacity to 50 percent and not exceed 250 people. The vaccine passport will also be required in churches and other places of worship.

Only funerals and weddings can be held, with a maximum of 25 people present, with no vaccine passport requirements.

High-risk activities, such as office Christmas parties, karaoke, and dancing, will be banned from December 20.

Private indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people, up from 20 previously announced for the holidays.

“Even 10 people, we have to be extremely cautious and do it only if absolutely necessary,” Legault said.

Click to play video: 'Experts Recommend Increasing Booster Injections in Quebec to Combat Omicron Variant'

Experts Recommend Increasing Booster Injections in Quebec to Fight Omicron Variant

Experts Recommend Increasing Booster Injections in Quebec to Fight Omicron Variant

Schools will not be closed, but high school students will only resume classes in person on January 10. Any school day in the previous week’s schedule will be held remotely.

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The measure also applies to CEGEPs and universities, but not to primary schools. Masks are again mandatory at all times for students.

Outdoor sports will be allowed to continue, but tournaments and competitions will be canceled.

A maximum of 25 people will be allowed for indoor activities.

Hours earlier, Legault called the situation “critical.”

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Legault made the announcement when INESSS, a Quebec government health research institute, released dire projections related to the number of hospitalizations in the province after taking into account new research on the Omicron variant.

The institute said it expects hospitalizations to more than double (from 305 current patients to 700) in two to three weeks. Patients requiring intensive care could reach 160 in the same period of time, according to the INESSS model.

“According to the scenario applied to our context, the strong growth in the number of cases should translate into a marked increase in the number of daily hospitalizations in the coming weeks,” he said in a press release.

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The institute added that it was less confident than usual in its projections because its data on the Omicron variant is based on a single study in South Africa, where vaccination rates are much lower than in Quebec.

Legault said that in addition to reducing contacts, vaccination is the other weapon at our disposal in the fight against COVID.

“Vaccinated people are less likely to get sick, even with the variant,” he said. “There is still a risk, but experts tell us we can reduce it with a third dose.”

Quebec announced that it would accelerate the deployment of booster vaccines to a broader segment of the population, while prioritizing healthcare workers and those who are most vulnerable.

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Starting Monday, December 20, people 65 and older can start booking appointments, and a week later, on December 27, spaces will open for people 60 and older.

Appointments for other age groups are expected to be available soon after, with the interval between a second and third dose reduced to three months from six.

Booster shots are currently available to people age 70 and older, people with chronic illnesses, pregnant women, healthcare workers, people living in isolated or remote communities, and people who have received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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Legault ended by asking everyone to do their part to limit the spread of the virus.

“Everyone has a great responsibility,” he said. “If everyone does their part, we can get through this together. I’m counting on all of you. “

With files from The Canadian Press

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