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La santé

COVID live updates: ‘New collective effort required, Drouin says as Montreal cases double to 844 – Montreal Gazette

Montreal public health director urges people to avoid in-person gatherings ahead of Christmas. Federal health minister says Canadians risk getting sick or stranded abroad if they leave the country.

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Updated throughout the day on Wednesday, Dec. 15. Questions/comments: ariga@postmedia.com

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Top updates

  • Ontario will offer booster shots to people 18+ starting Monday
  • Avoid in-person holiday parties before Christmas, Drouin says
  • Don’t take unnecessary international trips, feds tell Canadians
  • Quebec pharmacists lay out rules for picking up free home rapid tests
  • ‘New collective effort’ required as Montreal cases double to 844, Drouin says
  • More than half of Quebec kids 5-11 have received first vaccine dose or are booked to get it
  • Hospitalizations continue to rise as Quebec reports 2,386 cases, 4 deaths
  • Plante urges Montrealers to support local businesses after new work-from-home order
  • Videos: Here’s what you’ll get in a Quebec home rapid-test kit – and how to use it
  • Tightening the rules for holidays? Legault says nothing is excluded
  • Some Quebecers are waiting up to four days to get results of COVID tests: report
  • Four members of the Canadian Armed Forces in court to challenge vaccine order
  • Quebec has by far Canada’s highest case counts
  • Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

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4:15 p.m.

Thanks for reading

I’ll be back tomorrow with another live blog.

In the meantime, you can follow all our coverage via the coronavirus page .

My previous COVID-19 live blogs are available here .


3:30 p.m.

Ontario will offer booster shots to people 18+ starting Monday

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3 p.m.

Avoid in-person holiday parties before Christmas, Drouin says

Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal’s director of public health, says the island has experienced a “rapid increase” in cases over the past few days.

She said the surge is expected to continue.

Many of the new infections are among young children and their parents, with the spread then spilling into workplaces, Drouin said.

Montreal currently has 95 cases linked to the new Omicron variant, with 90 per cent of them having received two vaccine doses. There have been no hospitalizations or deaths linked to Omicron.

It’s unclear if Quebec will reverse its plan to double the maximum number of people who can gather for holiday get-togethers.

“Before Christmas, I recommend avoiding in-person parties whether it be in work settings or end-of-session parties (in schools) so we can slow down community spread,” Drouin said.

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As for Christmas, “we’ll see what the government recommends.”

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2 p.m.

Don’t take unnecessary international trips, feds tell Canadians

Jean-Yves Duclos, the federal health minister, today said Canada is “officially recommending to Canadians that they avoid all unnecessary travel outside the country.”

He made the comments at a press conference this afternoon, a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a virtual meeting with premiers to discuss plans to stem the Omicron variant.

“The epidemiological situation is evolving quickly,” with a “significant resurgence” of COVID-19 cases expected in the coming weeks, “even without taking into account the new Omicron variant,” Duclos said.

“To people planning trips, I say very clearly: it’s not the time to travel.”

He said the fast-spreading Omicron variant “has us fearing the worst.”

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Duclos added: “Canadians who travel could end up contracting the virus or stuck abroad in difficult conditions.”

He reminded Canadians that if they get infected in another country, they won’t be allowed to board a plane home.

“The situation abroad is already dire in many places and it’s going to get worse very quickly.”

The recommendation will be in place for four weeks after which the situation will be reassessed, Duclos said.

Some may consider the measure draconian but “we must at all costs avoid overloading our hospital system and our health workers,” Duclos said.

He said that more rapid tests must be deployed and the administration of boosters must be accellerated.

The federal government is currently distributing 35 million rapid tests to provinces and “hundreds of millions more tests” will be made available in the coming weeks, Duclos added.

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“Vaccines are also available and are being delivered to provinces and territories. Sixteen million booster doses are available in stock and many more millions are coming over the next few weeks.”

Duclos was asked about the fact that Quebec is administering boosters at a slower rate than some other provinces, including Ontario.

“All provinces must accelerate third doses, (due to) the information we have now that we didn’t have a few weeks ago,” he responded. “We see that a third dose is absolutely essential to protect against infection and severe illness and thus hospitalizations.”

Duclos said during the summer Canada was vaccinating four times more people daily than it is now. He said that pace must be reached again quickly.

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1:20 p.m.

Quebec pharmacists lay out rules for picking up free home rapid tests

With Quebec set to begin distributing free home rapid COVID-19 tests next week, the province’s pharmacists are asking the public to follow certain procedures.

“Tests will be distributed as we receive them, but they may not be available at all pharmacies in the first days of deployment,” said Benoit Morin, president of the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires (AQPP).

“Participating pharmacies will be continuously restocked in the coming weeks depending on supply from the federal government. To ensure the successful deployment of this initiative, we will need everyone’s support.”

The AQPP said people:

  • Should not show up or call a pharmacy before Dec. 20 to get tests.
  • Should avoid calling the pharmacy lab. Instead, listen to the greeting voicemail or check your pharmacy’s website or social media for specific procedures or stock status. Every pharmacist will organize the distribution according to availability
  • Should not go to the pharmacy if they have symptoms. The goal is to get the screening tests before you show symptoms.
  • Who have a regular pharmacy where their name is on file should go there first.
  • Must present a health card to pick up tests.

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The AQPP said “quantities will be limited to one five-test kit per month per person 14 years of age and over. This limit applies to all pharmacies. You will not be able to get more than one kit by going to other pharmacies.”

If a home test shows a positive result “you must make an appointment at a screening clinic to have the diagnosis confirmed,” the association said.


1:20 p.m.

School boards in Ontario proactively prepare in case of switch to remote learning

From The Canadian Press:

Some school boards in Ontario are asking students to take home their personal belongings and devices from classrooms as they prepare for the possibility of a return to remote learning in the new year.

In a memo issued today, the Toronto District School Board told parents it hasn’t received any indication from the Ministry of Education that schools will close, but it wants to make sure it’s prepared.

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The TDSB says it wants to implement any decision the province makes “smoothly and efficiently” to support students’ learning and well-being.

The Waterloo Region District School Board issued a similar memo today, saying its staff have prepared schools to “ensure a smooth transition, if required.”

Both school boards are asking families to remind their children to take home their personal belongings and any tools or supplies they might need to pivot to remote learning.

At a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said he hopes to keep schools open “as long as we can,” with protocols being reviewed to make schools safer.

Dr. Kieran Moore also said that he still considers schools safe.

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Ontario reported 1,808 cases of COVID-19 and nine new virus-related deaths on Wednesday.


12:35 p.m.

Alberta braces for more Omicron, ramps up testing and booster shots but loosens health rules

Alberta is making changes to testing, booster shots and gathering restrictions as it braces for an increase in cases of the more transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19, The Canadian Press is reporting.

Premier Jason Kenney says Alberta’s vaccination rate means it is well-positioned to handle the variant, allowing the province to loosen gathering restrictions.

But he says it’s best to be cautious given Omicron’s rapid spread and other unknowns.

Kenney says a rapid testing program will be expanded Friday, with free test kits available to Albertans at select health services sites and pharmacies.

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The booster shot program is being expanded immediately to anyone 50 years and older and to all health-care workers provided it’s six months after their second shots.

Starting immediately, people will now be allowed to host up to 10 adults from more than two different households at private gatherings — and that total does not include anyone 17 and under.


12:20 p.m.

‘New collective effort’ required as Montreal cases double to 844, Drouin says

Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal’s director of public health, will provide a pandemic update today at a 2 p.m. press conference.

The update comes after Montreal Island reported 844 cases – more than double the 416 new infections registered yesterday.

Today’s case count is the highest since mid-January.

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“This will require new individual and collective efforts from us,” Drouin said via Twitter this morning. “Yes, our resilience will be tested once again.”

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11:25 a.m.

More than half of Quebec kids 5-11 have received first vaccine dose or are booked to get it

Quebec’s Health Department this morning provided an update on vaccination among children age five to 11.

It says:

  • 294,796 young children have received their first dose.
  • 45,545 have vaccine appointments.

That’s a total of 340,341.

Quebec has said there are about 650,000 children in this age group

That means 52 per cent of young children are either vaccinated with a first dose or are about to get their shot.


11:15 a.m.

Updated charts: Quebec cases, deaths


11:15 a.m.

Update on Quebec’s vaccination campaign


11:05 a.m.

Hospitalizations continue to rise as Quebec reports 2,386 cases, 4 deaths

Cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Quebec.

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Quebec has recorded 2,386 new cases of COVID-19, the provincial government announced this morning.

That’s the highest one-day case count in more than 11 months.

In addition, four new deaths were reported.

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

  • Montreal Island: 844 cases, 3 deaths.
  • Net increase in hospitalizations: 16, for total of 309 (37 entered hospital, 21 discharged).
  • Net decrease in intensive care patients: 2, for total of 73 (6 entered ICUs, 8 discharged).
  • 46,793 vaccine doses administered over previous 24 hours.
  • 40,646 tests conducted Monday.
  • Positivity rate: 5.8 per cent.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 471,742 cases and 11,622 deaths linked to COVID-19.

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10:20 a.m

Plante urges Montrealers to support local businesses after new work-from-home order

With cases and hospitalizations rising, Quebec yesterday told companies to keep workers at home for the time being.

That will deprive businesses that rely on workers, including downtown stores had been counting on Christmas shopping to help revive their fortunes, Mayor Valérie Plante said this morning.

She urged Montrealers not to abandon downtown.

“My message today is to come and encourage your local businesses, as we did in large numbers last year,” Plante said at this morning’s executive committee meeting.

“Amazon does not need our wallets but our local businesses do,” she added.

“It’s a show of resilience and solidarity to do your holiday shopping at local businesses – Quebec, Montreal businesses. They are happy to see us, they’re mostly small businesses and it makes a big difference economically and for their morale as well.”

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She noted Montreal is offering free downtown parking to encourage shoppers to patronize businesses there.


9:55 a.m.

Videos: Here’s what you’ll get in a Quebec home rapid-test kit – and how to use it

Quebec says it will soon start distributing millions of rapid tests to the public via pharmacies, with every Quebecer eligible to receive five tests every 30 days.

Quebec has posted some information in English about home rapid tests.

You’ll find more rapid-tests guides and videos, in French, at the bottom of this page, which focuses on screening in Quebec schools.

These Health Department videos explain what’s in the kit and how to use the tests:

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9:45 a.m.

Tightening the rules for holidays? Legault says nothing is excluded

Quebec recorded about 2,300 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, Health Minister Christian Dubé told a Montreal radio station Wednesday morning.

Asked point-blank if Quebec expects to reinstate curfew or confinement regulations as cases and hospitalizations rise, Dubé replied: “I won’t tell you that this morning. What I’m telling you is that it’s going relatively well. I want us to keep an eye on hospitalizations.”

Later, Premier François Legault weighed in, saying the province is not changing the rules about household holiday gatherings, but adding that the government is re-examining all the options.

He did not exclude the idea of slapping a limit on the number of days Quebecers can gather in larger groups for the holidays. The rule is supposed to move from 10 to 20 people per household starting Dec. 23.

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Read our full story.


9:40 a.m.

Trudeau, premiers discuss possible ‘additional border and travel measures’ to stem Omicron

Yesterday evening, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a conference call with premiers to discuss the pandemic and the Omicron variant.

In a statement later, Trudeau said:

  • The political leaders “expressed concern over this variant and the epidemiological outlook, noting the potential for a rapid and strong resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Canada that could put a strain on our health care systems.”
  • He consulted premiers “on additional border and travel measures that could help slow community spreading, and first ministers discussed other potential measures to keep Canadians safe.”
  • He and premiers “agreed that the key to moving beyond this pandemic is ensuring that as many Canadians as possible, including children, get vaccinated and have access to booster shots, particularly our most vulnerable. The prime minister noted that the federal government has secured enough vaccine doses for all eligible Canadians to receive first, second, and third doses.”
  • He highlighted pandemic measures in yesterday’s federal fiscal update, including $1.7 billion “to secure rapid testing supplies, in addition to the millions of rapid tests already provided to provinces and territories in the last year, and $2 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 therapeutics.”
  • He “emphasized that Canada is well-positioned to ensure a reliable supply of therapeutics, with contracts in place with Merck and Pfizer, pending Health Canada approval of their anti-viral treatments.”

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9:30 a.m.

Some Quebecers are waiting up to four days to get results of COVID tests: report

In some parts of Quebec, it’s taking up to four days to get results of COVID-19 tests because the system was not prepared for the surge in demand, Radio-Canada is reporting.


9:20 a.m.

Federal government considering new travel bans to limit spread of Omicron: sources

The Liberal government is considering a host of new border restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, sources say.

A senior Liberal source said the government is considering all measures, including travel restrictions, but has not yet made a final decision.

Read our full story.


9:20 a.m.

Liberals to limit number of their MPs in Commons due to Omicron, say opposition can make own decisions

The lightning spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant is prompting federal politicians to reconsider the wisdom of having several hundred MPs crammed together in the House of Commons.

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Government House leader Mark Holland announced Tuesday that the Liberals will “greatly reduce” the number of their MPs in the chamber and intend to hold entirely virtual caucus meetings for the time being.

Read our full story.


9:20 a.m.

Four members of the Canadian Armed Forces in court to challenge vaccine order

The Federal Court is scheduled to hear arguments today from four Canadian Armed Forces members facing disciplinary action for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Read our full story.


9:15 a.m.

Quebec has by far Canada’s highest case counts

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 .

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 mass 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 list of what services are open, closed or modified in Montreal and Quebec, including information on the curfew and other lockdown measures.

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. Quebec says it will soon begin mass distribution of rapid tests to the general public.

    Work from home, Quebec says as it scrambles to distribute rapid tests to all


  2. Find all our coronavirus coverage

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