QUÉBEC – Québec Premier François Legault lifted the special emergency measures for the entire Outaouais on May 17. Regular red zone measures now apply: non-essential businesses can re-open (restaurant dining and patios remain closed), the curfew is from 9:30 p.m. until 5 a.m., and all schools are open (secondary 3, 4 and 5 students alternate between in-school and online learning).
Indoor and outdoor private gatherings are still not allowed and all non-essential travel is discouraged. Québec and Ontario police officers maintain a random presence at the borders to Ontario to prohibit non-essential travel.
Places of worship are limited to 25 people, including weddings and funerals.
Contact-free sports and recreational activities are permitted outdoors in public places with members of the same household or in groups of up to 8 people from different households.
Masks are required outdoors when a two metre distance cannot be maintained from people who do not reside at the same residence.
With new cases and hospitalization rates stabilizing, Legault said he hopes to unveil a ‘de-confinement’ plan for the province in the coming weeks detailing how restrictions will be reduced over the course of the summer. On May 11, he said the outlook for the summer is looking better than last year.
Pontiac Hospital outbreak
Three deaths have occurred as a result of the outbreak at the Pontiac Community Hospital’s short-stay unit that was declared on April 23; 14 patients and 14 staff members were affected. All others have recovered except those who passed away.
According to Marie-Pier Després, Centre intégré de santé et des services
sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) communications agent, 74.5% (as of May 12) of CISSSO employees have received a first dose of the COVID vaccine
and 30.4% have received a second dose.
Order 2021-024 came into effect on May 3 in long-term care residences, known as CHSLDs, requiring unvaccinated employees to undergo three rapid-test screenings per week in order to prevent outbreaks. It will be applied gradually to other settings: emergency departments, intensive care units, residential units, clinics for COVID-19, respiratory units, etc.
Vaccination is now open to all adults over 18 years old as of May 14. The province began providing individuals with electronic proof of vaccination via an emailed QR code – a scannable icon that will provide information – as of May 13. Up until then, only hard copies were provided at appointments. The province says they are
looking into how the code will be used while some groups are pushing for Quebec to adopt a COVID passport system. The federal government said they are exploring some sort of certification system to allow vaccinated Canadians to travel internationally again.
On May 5, Health Canada authorized the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children 12 to 15 years of age, the first vaccine authorized for children.
“Health Canada has placed terms and conditions on this authorization requiring Pfizer to continue providing information to Health Canada on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine in this younger age group to ensure its benefits continue to be demonstrated once it’s on the market,” said Health Canada’s news release.
Québec approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for those between 12 and 17 on May 6 and plans to make a first dose available to all those who want it before
the end of June.
AstraZeneca first doses suspended
On May 13, Quebec announced that first doses of AstraZeneca will no longer be issued based on the recommendations of the Comité d’immunisation du Québec (CIQ) due to the rare risk of blood clots.
“An additional 148,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine are scheduled to
be delivered over the next week. These doses will be reserved to be offered as a second dose to people who received the CoviShield or AstraZeneca first dose.
For people 45 and over who received AstraZeneca as the first dose, [it’s]
still recommended for the second.
“After informed consent, a person may prefer to receive Pfizer or Moderna as a second dose. However, according to recently published data on this type of vaccination strategy, people who receive two different vaccines will likely experience more significant side effects in the days following the second dose, such as fever, headache and fatigue. Studies are continuing on
a mixed vaccine scenario,” said the Ministry of Health in a notice.