La santé

COVID live updates: Montreal cases growing exponentially, especially among people 18-44, Drouin says – Montreal Gazette

STM orders bus drivers to wear masks again, bans singing, wind instruments in métro stations.

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Updated throughout the day on Thursday, Dec. 23. Questions/comments: ariga@postmedia.com

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Top updates

  • STM orders bus drivers to wear masks again, bans singing, wind instruments in métro stations
  • Omicron cases at much lower risk of hospital admission, U.K. says
  • Quebec cuts surgeries to free up beds ahead of expected hospitalization surge in Montreal
  • Province tightens visitor rules at long-term care homes (CHSLDs) and private seniors’ residences
  • With capacity limits cut in half, Quebec allows stores to stay open later after Christmas
  • Charts: current situation vs. one year ago; hospitalizations – vaccinated vs. unvaccinated
  • Quebec cases soar to 9,397, with 28 more people in hospitals
  • Montreal cases growing exponentially, especially among people 18-44, Drouin says
  • Quebecers won’t ‘give up the battle against this damn virus,’ Dubé says
  • Laval-area Liberal MP censured for defying his own party’s advice on non-essential travel
  • Quebec is banking on people to do what’s right despite COVID surge, experts say
  • FAQ: How can Montrealers protect themselves from Omicron?
  • Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

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4:15 p.m.

Thanks for reading

The live blog and our COVID newsletter will not be published tomorrow or next week but will return in early January.

In the meantime, you can continue to read the latest pandemic news at montrealgazette.com.

Thanks for reading over the past 21 months and all the best in 2022.

My previous COVID-19 live blogs are available here .


3:10 p.m.

STM orders bus drivers to wear masks again, bans singing, wind instruments in métro stations

Due to the dramatic rise in COVID cases in Montreal, the Société de transport de Montréal is telling bus drivers to wear masks again, six months after lifting the requirement.

It’s also increasing the presence of inspectors in the network and banning singing and wind instruments in métro stations.

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The agency made the announcement today, saying the measures are being implemented “to continue to minimize the risks of the virus spreading and to protect our customers and our employees in the métro and bus network.”

It said more patrols by STM inspectors and special constables in the métro network are meant to “strengthen the feeling of safety among customers and employees.”

The agency also said that paratransit will now accept a maximum of two passengers per vehicle to comply with public health instructions.

As for singers and musicians, the STM said it has “unfortunately been forced to temporarily suspend singing and wind instruments, in accordance with public health guidelines.”

Buskers returned to some métro stations last month , after being banned early in the pandemic.

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Busker Lucas Choi Zimbel receives a bit of coin at the Guy-Concordia métro station on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.
Busker Lucas Choi Zimbel receives a bit of coin at the Guy-Concordia métro station on Wednesday, December 1, 2021. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

2:30 p.m.

The majority of COVID cases in Montreal are being detected in young people

Following up on my earlier live coverage, here’s our full story, by René Bruemmer, about today’s pandemic update from Montreal public health officials.


1:45 p.m.

Latest numbers from Quebec, Ontario point to rapid infection surges

More upswings in COVID-19 infections were reported Thursday in Ontario and Quebec, as a pair of British studies appeared to confirm earlier research suggesting the Omicron variant is milder than the Delta mutation.

Read our full story.


1:20 p.m.

Omicron cases at much lower risk of hospital admission, U.K. says

From the Reuters news agency:

There is a lower risk of hospitalization for people with the Omicron coronavirus variant compared to Delta, but the higher transmissibility of Omicron could still lead to significant numbers needing hospital treatment, the United Kingdom government said.

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Analysis of preliminary data by the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showed an individual with Omicron was estimated to be between 31 per cent and 45 per cent less likely to attend hospital compared to someone with Delta, and 50 per cent to 70 per cent less likely to be admitted.

UKHSA Chief Executive Jenny Harries said on Thursday it was “an encouraging early signal that people who contract the Omicron variant may be at a relatively lower risk of hospitalization than those who contract other variants.”

“However, it should be noted both that this is early data and more research is required to confirm these findings,” she said.

The numbers came as Britain reported a record 119,789 new daily COVID-19 cases on Thursday as the new variant swept the country.

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The UKHSA’s analysis is highly uncertain because of the small numbers of Omicron cases currently in hospital, inability to effectively measure all previous infections and the limited spread of Omicron into older age groups, it said.

Still, the findings add to early evidence about the severity of disease that the new variant, first identified in southern Africa and Hong Kong, can cause and are consistent with encouraging signs from studies from Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh on Wednesday.

Transmissibility, the severity of disease and whether Omicron evades vaccines are the three big questions public health authorities and virologists are trying to answer as governments assess whether they need to take unpopular, economically damaging steps to tame the latest wave of infections.

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Omicron may appear milder because people are vaccinated, or have some natural protection from prior infection. It is also possible that the virus has changed in a way that produces milder symptoms. Younger people – a large share of Omicron cases – are also less likely to suffer severe illness.

The agency said evidence showed protection against symptomatic disease waned after the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and then improved after the booster.

But the data suggested the extra protection started to wane more rapidly against Omicron than Delta, being about 15 per cent and 25 per cent lower from 10 weeks after the booster dose, it said.


1 p.m.

Videos: Key moments from today’s update by Montreal public health

Quebec cuts surgeries to free up beds ahead of expected hospitalization surge in Montreal

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Montreal has yet to see the effect of Omicron on hospitalization, Dr. Drouin says 

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Faced with a dearth of testing appointments and rapid tests, what are Montrealers supposed to do?

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As Montreal deals with ‘intense community transmission,’ are holiday gatherings really advisable? 

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12:25 p.m.

Masses will be held in the parking lot of Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in downtown Montreal

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12:20 p.m.

Quebec tightens visitor rules at long-term care homes (CHSLDs) and private seniors’ residences


12:10 p.m.

With capacity limits cut in half, Quebec allows stores to stay open later after Christmas


11:50 a.m.

Charts: current situation vs. one year ago; hospitalizations – vaccinated vs. unvaccinated


11:50 a.m.

Updated charts: Quebec cases, deaths


11:50 a.m.

Update on Quebec’s vaccination campaign


 11:05 a.m.

Quebec cases soar to 9,397, with 28 more people in hospitals

Quebec has recorded 9,397 new cases of COVID-19, the provincial government announced this morning.

This is yet another new record. It’s the sixth consecutive day of record infections.

The seven-day rolling average of new infections has doubled over the past week and is now 5,231.

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In addition, six new deaths were reported.

Some other key statistics from Quebec’s latest COVID-19 update:

  • Montreal Island: 3,668 cases, zero deaths.
  • Net increase in hospitalizations: 28, for total of 473 (92 entered hospital, 64 discharged).
  • Net increase in intensive care patients: 3, for total of 91 (15 entered ICUs, 12 discharged).
  • 89,924 vaccine doses administered over previous 24 hours.
  • 54,520 tests conducted Tuesday.
  • Positivity rate: 14.6 per cent.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 511,095 cases and 11,658 deaths linked to COVID-19.


10:55 a.m.

Montreal cases growing exponentially, especially among people 18-44, Drouin says

In Montreal, cases are growing exponentially, with infections surging the most among people age 18 to 44, says Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal’s director of public health.

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Cases are growing particularly quickly in central Montreal neighbourhoods such as Plateau-Mont-Royal, Mile End, Petite-Patrie, Villeray, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and downtown, she told reporters at a press conference Thursday.

Hospitalizations are growing but deaths are stable, she added.

The positivity rate in Montreal is unprecedented: between 18 and 20 per cent, meaning about one in five people who go to screening centres are testing positive.

Drouin said public health cannot keep up with contact tracing and is counting on people with confirmed COVID cases to alert those with whom they have been in contact recently indoors without a mask for at least 15 minutes.

She also urged Montrealers to reduce their contacts and whenever possible get together with others outdoors.

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Sonia Bélanger, head of the Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal regional health authority, said officials are very concerned with the surge in the number of cases.

“This is a critical time for Montreal’s health network as holiday gatherings approach,” she said.

Montreal health institutions are cutting back on non-urgent procedures and freeing up more than 500 extra beds for COVID patients.

“This number could rise to 1,000 as the situation evolves,” Bélanger said.

Hospitalizations last reached such levels in May 2020 and January 2021.

Quebec currently has 473 people in hospitals with COVID, 333 of them in Greater Montreal. And of the 91 people in intensive care units across the province, 61 are in the Montreal region.

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Bélanger said some health workers are being freed up to administer vaccinations.

“We have two priorities right now: reinforce our health-care system and increase our capacity to administer third doses,” she said.

Several test centres are going appointment-only because they can’t keep up with the number of people showing up to get screened, Bélanger said.

She urged Montrealers to use rapid tests if they have them.

COVID-19 | Point de presse du 23 décembre 2021

COVID-19 | Point de presse du 23 décembre 2021 COVID-19 – LE POINT SUR LA SITUATION | Dre Mylène Drouin, directrice régionale de santé publique de Montréal, fait le point sur la situation épidémiologique à Montréal. L’allocution est d’abord en français, puis en anglais. ️Situation actuelle à Montréal : santemontreal.qc.ca/coronavirus ️Situation au Québec : quebec.ca/coronavirus #SantéPubliqueMTL #COVID19 #TousEnsemble *** COVID-19 – AN UPDATE ON THE SITUATION | Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal’s Regional Director of Public Health, provides an update on the situation. The information is delivered in French first, then in English. ️Situation in Montreal: santemontreal.qc.ca/en/coronavirus ️️Situation in Quebec: https://bit.ly/3guMdPW #MTLPublicHealth ️Situation actuelle à Montréal : santemontreal.qc.ca/coronavirus ️Situation au Québec : quebec.ca/coronavirus #SantéPubliqueMTL #COVID19 *** COVID-19 – AN UPDATE ON THE SITUATION | Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal’s Regional Director of Public Health, provides an update on the situation. The information is delivered in French first, then in English. ️Situation in Montreal: santemontreal.qc.ca/en/coronavirus ️️Situation in Quebec: https://bit.ly/3guMdPW #MTLPublicHealth

Posted by Santé Montréal on Thursday, December 23, 2021

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10:10 a.m.

Olympic Stadium test centre now appointment-only

As of today, the Viau clinic at the Olympic Stadium will only provide screening to people with appointments, health officials say.

“This decision is made necessary due to the very high number of people coming to this clinic in recent days, creating traffic and safety problems around the clinic,” the Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal health authority said in a press release.

The clinic, at 4553 Pierre-De Coubertin Ave., conducts drive-thru testing.

Montrealers can be screened at test centres across the island.

For other parts of Quebec, check out this page on the Quebec government’s site .

A Montreal police officer directs drivers towards a COVID testing centre at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, December 21, 2021.
A Montreal police officer directs drivers towards a COVID testing centre at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, December 21, 2021. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

9:50 a.m.

Quebecers won’t ‘give up the battle against this damn virus,’ Dubé says

With the province set to report about 9,000 new COVID cases, Health Minister Christian Dubé this morning posted a message to Quebecers on Facebook.

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He urged people to follow rules, limit contacts and use free rapid tests if possible because screening clinics are overwhelmed.

An excerpt:

It is not true that we are going to give up the battle against this damn virus.

In the two years that we have been fighting it, we always end up getting the upper hand.

A year ago, we started receiving the first vaccines.

And now, we are on the verge of receiving the first truly effective drugs to prevent hospitalizations.

We will all fight together.

Courage everyone!

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9:40 a.m.

Aislin

Editorial cartoon For Dec. 23, 2021.
Editorial cartoon For Dec. 23, 2021. Photo by Aislin

9:35 a.m.

Laval-area Liberal MP censured for defying his own party’s advice on non-essential travel

A Liberal MP has been censured by his party’s chief whip for defying advice not to travel out of the country unless the trip is essential, The Canadian Press reports.

Chief government whip Steven MacKinnon issued a statement Wednesday saying he is “profoundly disappointed” that Liberal MP Yves Robillard travelled outside Canada, in contravention of party instructions.

The whip says Liberal MPs were told to avoid non-essential international travel as the COVID-19 Omicron variant increases its grip.

The instruction mirrors government advice to members of the public to try to curb the spread of the highly contagious COVID variant.

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MacKinnon said although Robillard is fully vaccinated, the MP’s trip during Parliament’s holiday break was not considered essential, and he will be removed from his duties as member of the standing committee on national defence as a result.

MacKinnon, who did not mention Robillard’s destination or reasons for travel, intends to talk to the MP about his decision to leave Canada when Parliament returns.

Robillard, who represents Marc-Aurèle-Fortin riding in Laval, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


9:30 a.m.

Quebec is banking on people to do what’s right despite COVID surge, experts say

After announcing few new restrictions on Wednesday despite COVID-19 cases soaring past record highs, the Quebec government is now counting on people understanding the gravity of the situation and doing what’s needed, experts believe.

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And, nearly two years into the pandemic, they feel the shift in approach may bring better results than trying to impose even stricter measures during the holiday period.

Read our full story, by Jesse Feith.


9:30 a.m.

How can Montrealers protect themselves from Omicron?

The Montreal Gazette spoke to medical experts for advice on the best way to avoid catching the virus, what to do if you test positive and what the future may bring.

Read our full story, by René Bruemmer.


9:30 a.m.

Opinion: Now is not the time for Legault to play Santa

“Restrictions should have been instituted earlier than this week. Vaccines should have been rolled out much more rapidly, particularly the boosters, which are believed to offer significant protection against Omicron.”

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Read Bill Brownstein’s full column.


9:30 a.m.

Opinion: Looking back on a year of perseverance

“We’re staring down at the holiday break, and coming to terms with the reimposition of restrictions. It may seem like we are back to square one. This is highly discouraging, of course, but we need only look at where we were one year ago to know that we will make it through this challenging time.”

Read Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed’s full column.


9:15 a.m.

The situation across Canada

Here’s the rate of case growth per 100,000 people over the past seven days, via the federal government’s latest epidemiological update .


9:15 a.m.

FAQ: Who can get their third dose in Quebec? And when?

Quebec is expanding eligibility for a third COVID-19 vaccine dose.

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Here’s what you need to know about the province’s booster plan.


9:15 a.m.

A guide to Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccine passport

Quebec’s vaccine passport is mandatory for people 13 and older who want to access services and activities deemed non-essential by the provincial government, including bars, restaurants, gyms, festivals and sporting events.

Quebecers can use a smartphone app to prove their vaccination status or simply carry their QR code on paper.

The app is available from Apple’s App Store and Google Play .

We have published two guides to the passports – one looks at how to download and set up the app , and another answers key questions about the system, including how, when and why.

You can find more information on the Quebec government’s website – one page has details on how the system works, and another has a list of the places where a vaccine passport will be required .

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A test scan of a vaccine passport is shown at an Econofitness gym in Laval on Aug. 17, 2021.
A test scan of a vaccine passport is shown at an Econofitness gym in Laval on Aug. 17, 2021. Photo by Christinne Muschi /REUTERS

9:15 a.m.

A guide to COVID-19 vaccinations in Quebec

Local health authorities have set up vaccination sites across Montreal.

You can book appointments via the Clic Santé website or by phone at 1-877-644-4545.

Quebecers can also visit walk-in AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer vaccine clinics .

Here are the nuts and bolts of getting vaccinated , by Katherine Wilton. Her guide includes the age groups targeted, how to book appointments, and addresses of vaccination centres.


9:15 a.m.

Here are the current pandemic restrictions in Montreal and Quebec

We are regularly updating our guide to what services are open, closed or modified in Montreal and Quebec.

You can read it here.


9:15 a.m.

Here’s where Montrealers can get tested today

Montrealers can be screened at test centres across the island.

For other parts of Quebec, check out this page on the Quebec government’s site .


8:30 a.m.

Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

Stay informed with our daily email newsletter focused on local coronavirus coverage and other essential news, delivered directly to your email inbox by 7 p.m. on weekdays.

You can sign up here .


ariga@postmedia.com

Read my previous live blogs here.


  1. People line up at the COVID-19 testing clinic at the Gerry-Robertson Community Centre in the Pierrefonds-Roxboro on Wednesday, December 22, 2021.

    Quebec limits gatherings in homes, restaurants to 6 people as of Sunday

  2. Staff and patrons at McLean's Pub on Peel St. in Montreal listen to Health Minister Christian Dubé announce new COVID measures, including the closing of bars as of 5 p.m. on Monday, December 20, 2021.

    With cases at record levels, Quebec closes schools, bars and limits restaurant hours Edit |

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