With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations increasing once again, Quebec’s public health institute confirmed Wednesday the province has entered the sixth wave of the pandemic.
The Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), which has declared previous waves during the pandemic, said it believes the sixth wave began around mid-March.
In an interview with the TV news program Noovo Info, the institute’s Dr. Gaston De Serres said given the way pandemic indicators have been trending, it was expected a new wave of infections would take off.
“We already saw an increase last week, but what we didn’t know was whether that increase would continue,” De Serres said Wednesday. “In light of what’s happened in recent days, we were able to confirm today that Quebec is indeed in a sixth wave.”
De Serres said the severity of this wave remains to be seen, but given that most of Quebec’s public health measures have been lifted, much of the outcome will depend on whether people are willing to reduce their contacts on their own.
However, he said, it’s unlikely the increase in cases and hospitalizations will reach the heights experienced in December and early January.
“There are several reasons why, but there are two main ones: the first is that a lot of people have been infected since December, and that increases immunity,” De Serres explained. “There are also a lot of people who have gone to get their third dose, which wasn’t the case when the Omicron wave started.”
In a tweet Wednesday evening, Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services confirmed the INSPQ has declared a sixth wave.
“Public health is monitoring the situation and advising caution,” the department said. “No new health measures are being considered.”
As recently as Sunday, Quebec’s interim public health director had said it was still too early to confirm a new wave had hit the province.
However, Dr. Luc Boileau had warned that indicators were not trending in the right direction. Among other concerns, he said the number of health-care workers off sick with the virus had jumped by 60 per cent in less than a week.
In recent weeks, several public health experts warned that Quebec’s decision to remove most public health measures, combined with the more contagious BA.2 sub-variant taking hold, would inevitably lead to a resurgence. According to the INSPQ, the sub-variant now accounts for 65 per cent of all cases in the province.
Earlier Wednesday, new provincial projections showed Quebec could see up to 200 new daily COVID-19 hospitalizations within the next two weeks.
The Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) also noted hospitalizations increased for the first time last week since the peak of the fifth wave in mid-January, climbing by 18 per cent.
Quebec reported 3,067 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, but the tally only includes PCR test results, which are restricted to people considered at high risk. Another 1,334 Quebecers self-reported positive rapid test results.
The province also recorded eight new deaths.
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