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Cases once again on the rise; situation stable but fragile in the Montérégie

The number of positive COVID-19 diagnoses in the Montérégie has been increasing steadily over the past two weeks, with higher numbers being observed in all age cohorts except those 70 years and above. As in the rest of Quebec, the region has indubitably entered the third wave of the pandemic.

In a video address published by the Direction de santé publique de la Montérégie, Director Julie Loslier acknowledges that while the situation has deteriorated quickly, the region is in a relatively enviable position. “There are outbreaks, and the virus is circulating more widely, but we have not lost control,” she says, before adding that her objective at the moment is to hold fast.

“We are not changing the measures in the Montérégie for the moment, but this is not the time to let down our guard. We don’t want the virus to suddenly take off like we have seen in other regions,” Loslier says, referring to the four regions that were returned from orange to red alert last week (Chaudiere-Appalaches, Quebec City, Outaouais, and Bas-St-Laurent). There are also heightened emergency measures in place until at least April 12 in an increasing number of municipalities and cities.

Measures may be unchanged for the moment, but the public health authority is becoming more aggressive in how it manages positive cases. “If you are diagnosed with COVID, there is a good chance that it will be a variant,” says Loslier. And, in fact, all positive diagnoses are now being treated as presumed variant cases: protocol dictates that those in contact with an infected individual must isolate, as well as all members of their respective family bubbles, until test results can be confirmed.

Currently, the positivity rate for variants in the Montérégie is just above 33 per cent, while across the province it is now as high as 64 per cent. There are 683 presumed variant cases in the region, and 50 confirmed, including 47 of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, and 3 of the B.1.351 variant that emerged from South Africa.

As of last week, there were over 55 outbreaks in the region, with 45 per cent of those occurring in work environments, 29 per cent in schools, 14 per cent in the daycare sector, and 12 per cent in health or long-term care centre and residences. Youth between the ages of 10 to 19 now account for the highest number of active cases in the Montérégie, followed by those aged 40 to 49.

Loslier noted in her address that the public health authority was starting to see some resistance to the health measures, specifically in the context of outbreaks in work environments. “The measures are in place, but if people do not get tested, go to work with symptoms, refuse to isolate, and do not wear a mask, well, that is how we will lose control.” And, she warned, “we do not want to find ourselves in a situation like the other regions.”

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