Speeding up

Last year, at the heart of a long autumn during which almost the entire population was in the red zone, François Legault had mentioned the “moral contract” which would allow Quebecers, if they scrupulously respected the instructions, to hold gatherings of up to 10 people for the Holidays. A week later, he was backing down from relentless statistics on the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. This much-hoped-for respite had instead turned into 17 days of severe confinement.

This year again, François Legault mentioned at the end of November the possibility of throwing ballast during the Holidays. The Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, and the National Director of Public Health, Dr Horacio Arruda, confirmed just ten days ago that meetings of 20 people duly vaccinated would be allowed as of December 23. Then, rebel, the Caquista government revises its plans and inflicts a cold shower on Quebecers.

For the time being, however, the restrictions announced by François Legault are fortunately less severe than last year. Gatherings of up to 10 people are possible. A few school days are cut off at secondary school at the beginning of January. It won’t have any consequence. Shops, restaurants and bars will be able to continue their activities, although reduced. As long as it holds.

Until last Tuesday, Public Health projections indicated that the Omicron variant, which was spreading at high speed in Ontario, would not strike Quebec straight until January. This no longer applies. The vaccination schedule to give the third dose to people aged 60 and over has been brought forward, and we are working hard to do the same with the staff of the health network. Delayed compared to other provinces, the distribution of rapid tests to parents of elementary school students had started, and they will be available to everyone in pharmacies from Monday.

The enemy is already among us, overtaking the Legault government. In Montreal, the regional director of public health, the Dre Mylène Drouin said she was “jostled” by the rapid surge in cases increasingly caused by the new Omicron variant. Even before François Legault announced the new restrictions, she had urged Montrealers to avoid all gatherings between now and Christmas.

The current epidemiological situation is very different from that of last year. At the same date in 2020, the population was not vaccinated and the number of cases, which had fallen from less than 1,000 cases in the fall to nearly 1,800, had propelled the number of hospitalizations, thus testing the limits of the network. of health. Due to vaccination and the fact that children are less likely to contract the severe form of the disease, the number of hospitalizations is much lower now than the peak reached in January 2021.

But we haven’t seen anything yet. Because the Omicron variant is twice as transmissible as the Delta variant and almost four times more than the first strain of the coronavirus. Last spring, the number of new daily cases could double in five or six days. With Omicron, this doubling occurs in two or three days.

Admittedly, the new variant is less harmful and results in fewer hospitalizations and deaths. But it does cause it all the same. Its exponential proliferation – force in numbers – can quickly overload hospitals. Very effective against the Delta variant, the vaccines are less effective against the new strain. A vaccinated person can be infected and infect others, even if the symptoms they are experiencing do not lead to hospitalization.

We must also consider the situation of professionals in the health network, which we hope will ultimately all be fully vaccinated. If the Omicron virus invites itself among them, it can wreak havoc and undermine the health network’s ability to care for affected patients, as seen last spring, but with a degree of contagiousness. multiplied.

It is also necessary for Public Health to be able to provide the correct information in a timely manner. On two occasions, François Legault has created false expectations. It is understandable that the Prime Minister, as the holidays approach, wants the population to maintain morale. A little less eagerness on his part would have been probably preferable, even if the only choice available to us is the disappointment that follows false hopes or the weight of resignation.

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