Avoid international travel and large private gatherings, Dubé warns – .

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Avoid international travel and large private gatherings, Dubé warns – .


The first known case of the Omicron variant was discovered Monday in Quebec, in a traveler from Nigeria.

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With the first case of the Omicron variant identified in Quebec and other emerging cases around the world, Health Minister Christian Dubé asked Quebecers considering traveling outside the country to reconsider their plans and reminded everyone residents avoid private meetings of more than 10 people.

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It will likely take two weeks before decisions are made as to whether the spread of this new variant of COVID-19 will result in further restrictions in Quebec, Dubé said. This is the time the federal government considers it takes to determine whether the variant is resistant to current vaccines and whether it is more transmissible or dangerous than other versions.

“For those who chose not to get the shot for reason X, I think the new variant is a good reason to go and do it,” Dubé said.

As of Monday, 115 travelers entering Quebec from the seven southern African countries on Canada’s Omicron watch list have been identified. They will need to be tested and quarantined for two weeks from the date of their arrival in Canada.

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“We ask Quebecers who travel abroad or plan to do so to be extremely careful,” Dubé said during a COVID-19 press conference Monday in Montreal. “We have seen in the past that restrictions on travelers can change very quickly. Those restrictions could soon expand beyond the seven countries currently listed to include all international locations, Dubé said, including the United States.

“We suggest that you avoid all non-essential travel at this time. “

At the same time, Dubé stressed that regulations limiting home or private gatherings and office parties to a maximum of 10 people must be observed, as they are a known source of outbreaks. Large crowds in bars, restaurants and places like the Bell Center are still allowed because people must show proof of vaccination to enter, and few outbreaks have been linked to these types of places, he said. declared.

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“We are waiting for it to be behind us, but unfortunately we see that it is not,” he said. “So you cannot rent a chalet for your office party or organize a large gathering at the chalet. The rule is 10 people.

It is too early to tell if these rules will change for family reunions over the Christmas season.

There have been 6,300 cases of COVID-19 detected in Quebec over the past week, Dubé said. Of these, more than half were from unvaccinated people, mostly children aged 5 to 11 who only recently became eligible for a vaccine. More than a third of eligible children in the province – 200,000 of them – have been vaccinated or have made an appointment to do so, which Dubé says bodes well for Quebec’s future.

However, cases rose in the province last week, averaging more than 900 a day. Quebec director of public health Horacio Arruda said the increase was expected due to cold weather forcing more people inside. Hospitalizations increased slightly from 200 cases last week to 220 on Monday due to the increase in cases, but the number is still under control, Arruda said.

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There is frustration with the slow adoption of third-dose booster vaccines given in the province, Dubé said, with about 65% of those eligible getting vaccinated. But he said the government is still studying whether the delay is due to many failing to meet the required six-month timeframe between the second and third dose.

When asked why booster shots are not being offered to more people – currently only people over 70 and with health issues can apply – Arruda said the government wanted follow the same protocol as he did with the first and second doses of the vaccine, giving priority to the elderly. , health workers and other more vulnerable members of the population first.

Noting that Ontario has asked the federal government to start imposing tests for the new variant on all international travelers, Dubé said Quebec is considering doing the same. But he warned that international airports will need to have the equipment first to perform PCR tests on all incoming passengers in place, or risk having endless queues.

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Ontario is investigating four more possible cases of the Omicron variant, and the province’s top doctor has said it’s likely more will be detected after the first two cases are confirmed over the weekend.

Dr Kieran Moore said two of the potential cases are in the Hamilton area and two in Ottawa. This is in addition to the two confirmed cases in Ottawa announced on Sunday – the first known cases of the COVID-19 mutation in Canada declared a variant of concern on Friday by the World Health Organization.

Moore said the first cases of Omicron in Canada, in two people who had recently traveled to Nigeria, were first tested for the virus in Montreal upon arrival in the country.

The first known case in Quebec was also detected in a woman from Nigeria.

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People recently arrived in Canada from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe are eligible for COVID-19 testing and must be quarantined. The federal government has also closed its borders to visitors from these countries.

As word of a new variant spread in Canada, researchers at the Université Polytechnique Montréal announced funding for wastewater sampling, which can detect levels of COVID-19 circulating in society as well as the presence of new variants, was not prolonged. Sarah Dorner, a professor at the university who has been helping carry out wastewater sampling since March 2020 with McGill University and other institutions, said the Quebec government was not extending funding for the pilot project that was collecting wastewater. daily samples from the Montreal wastewater treatment plant to detect coronavirus levels.

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“Our project ends at the end of December,” she said. “Public health is no longer interested in it. “

Sampling, carried out by the scientific community, is an important “independent confirmation of whether you really catch everything or not,” she said. “And of course, with new worrying variants, it’s pretty nice to have samples that you can send for sequencing”, especially since the Quebec public health department does not test every COVID-19 test for new variants.

Sampling of wastewater in the Montreal area in March 2020 indicated a rapid increase in the prevalence of COVID-19 in the region, as public health officials still downplayed the severity of the virus, Dorner said. “At the end of March, it went up so quickly, and you could see it in the sewage. “

Testing wastewater is inexpensive, Dorner added, since the scientific process has already been put in place. At this point, it takes two part-time research assistants to collect samples once a day at the Montreal wastewater treatment plant. A similar program in Ottawa has worked throughout the pandemic and is well funded by the Ontario government, Dorner noted.

More details to come.

[email protected]

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