Quebec cases fall as concerns rise over variants, vaccine supply

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: People line up ahead of reopening to enter the Winners store at Marché Centrale in Montreal Feb. 8, 2021.

© Provided by The Gazette
People line up ahead of reopening to enter the Winners store at Marché Centrale in Montreal Feb. 8, 2021.

Updated throughout the day on Monday, Feb. 8. Questions/comments: [email protected]

Table of Contents

Top updates

  • No more ‘yo-yo’: Quebec business owners happy with reopenings but fear new closures
  • Quebec cases fall as concerns rise over variants, vaccine supply
  • Calls on the decline to Montreal police, with 219 curfew tickets last week
  • Don’t delay second vaccine dose, Fauci says
  • Quebec administered 1,529 vaccine doses yesterday
  • Province reports 853 new cases, lowest since October
  • In west-central Montreal, mass vaccinations to be held at hockey arena, shopping centre
  • Here’s how Montreal’s lockdown changes, starting today
  • As restrictions ease, experts want the focus on reducing school outbreaks
  • Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter
5 p.m.

Thanks for reading

That’s it for today, but I will be back tomorrow with another live blog.

In the meantime, you can follow all our coverage via the coronavirus page .

My previous COVID-19 live blogs are available here .

4:55 p.m.

Judge rejects demand to allow online schooling for all Quebec children

Quebec mothers who wanted the option of online schooling to be available to all children in elementary and high schools during the COVID-19 pandemic lost in court on Monday.

Read our full story.

4:25 p.m.

No more ‘yo-yo’: Quebec business owners happy with reopenings but fear new closures

From The Canadian Press:

Quebec business owners said they were happy to be operating again Monday after COVID-19 restrictions were eased, but they hope the government doesn’t force them to close again.

Isabelle Lachance said people don’t recognize the logistical hurdles behind suspending and resuming operations. The owner of Oblic hair salon in Montreal’s north end said the second closure of her business since the start of the pandemic has been difficult on her employees.

“Closing down has an effect on the anxiety of my team,” she said. “Everyone is feeling a certain level of stress. There is (also) the financial aspect; all hair salons have lost money.”

Susie Huneault, owner of home decor boutique Casa Luca on Montreal’s Fleury Street, in the north end of the city, said she was able to stay afloat during the lockdown through curbside pickups and online sales. She said it wasn’t easy to switch from in-store sales to online.

“I hope that we will stop playing yo-yo,” she said, referring to the repeated closures and openings during the pandemic. “If we open, I hope we stay open. We can’t continue with this formula where we close temporarily.”

However, the forced pause was not all negative, Huneault said. The time spent beefing up her online boutique was worth it. “That’s something that’s going to stay,” she said of her growing online sales.

4:15 p.m.

Quebec cases fall as concerns rise over variants, vaccine supply

Non-essential stores, hair and beauty salons, libraries and museums were allowed to reopen across Quebec today.

Meanwhile, in six regions in eastern and northern Quebec, gyms and in-person restaurant dining also reopened, with restrictions.

The curfew remains in force provincewide, beginning at 8 p.m. in most of the province, including Montreal – and at 9:30 p.m. in the six less-populated regions.

The changes came into effect as Quebec recorded 853 new cases of COVID-19, the lowest one-day increase since Oct. 26.

But amid rising concern over new variants and vaccine supply problems, Quebecers are increasingly pessimistic about when the province will emerge from the pandemic.

A majority of Quebecers – 52 per cent – think it will be two years before “things return to something closer to life before COVID-19,” a new poll suggests.

The poll was conducted in late January by Léger for the Association for Canadian Studies.

The results contrast with earlier projections, said ACS president Jack Jedwab.

“In mid-December, the vast majority of Quebecers seemed optimistic about 2021 owing to positive forecasts about the vaccine rollout,” he said.

In July 2020, most Quebecers thought a resumption of normal activities would occur in one year or less, Jedwab said.

The latest poll suggests non-francophones are more pessimistic than francophones.

Just under one-quarter (24 per cent) of non-francophones said the pandemic could drag on for another five years, compared to just 15 per cent of francophones.

table:  How long do you think it will take before the COVID-19 crisis pass and things return to something closer to life before COVID-19?

How long do you think it will take before the COVID-19 crisis pass and things return to something closer to life before COVID-19?

4:10 p.m.

Toronto’s top doctor says variants, case numbers make reopening risky

From The Canadian Press:

Toronto’s top doctor says now is not the time to prepare to ease pandemic restrictions in the city.

Dr. Eileen De Villa says the concerning presence of new, more infectious variants of COVID-19 signals a transition to a “new pandemic.”

She says it’s likely that cases will increase when restrictions are loosened, particularly if the variants become the dominant strains.

Her comments come as the Ontario government says a stay-at-home order for Toronto and two neighbouring hot spots will lift on Feb. 22.

The province is letting a state of emergency expire as scheduled on Tuesday and will gradually transition regions back to its colour-coded restrictions system.

Toronto, Peel Region and York Region will be the last to be moved to the system this month, although the province has said an increase in cases could change that plan.

2 p.m.

Ottawa lays out criteria for quarantine hotels as it inches toward new travel rule

The Public Health Agency of Canada has listed its criteria for hotels seeking to participate in the mandatory three-day quarantine for returning travellers.

Read our full story.

Here’s an excerpt from the quarantine-hotel guidelines on the federal government page:

“Hotels listed for booking by arriving travellers for mandatory 3-night stays will be privately-owned hotels that have agreed to meet operational guidelines and selection criteria for the purposes of accommodating travellers while they await their COVID-19 test results.

“Generally, these hotels will be for people who are asymptomatic, have provided a negative pre-departure COVID-19 molecular test result, and are not close contacts of confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19. Travellers staying at these hotels while they await their test results may have symptoms of COVID-19 but previously tested negative on their pre-departure test or may have symptoms that are not related to COVID-19.

The hotel’s main responsibilities will be to:

  • Provide safe transportation of travellers from the airport to the hotel.
  • Provide travellers with three nights lodging that meets Public Health Agency of Canada requirements.
  • Provide traveller necessities, including meals, telephone, Wi-Fi in a safe and accessible environment.
  • Report traveller information to the Public Health Agency of Canada, including check-in/check-out, and compliance with the Quarantine Act.
1:40 p.m.

Like Quebec, Ontario is relaxing rules and moving back to colour-coded system

From The Canadian Press:

Ontario will begin to gradually reopen its economy on Wednesday but the government could use an “emergency brake” to move regions back into lockdown if cases spike.

Premier Doug Ford said Monday that a state of emergency will expire as scheduled on Tuesday, but most regions will remain under a stay-at-home order until they transition back to the province’s colour-coded restrictions system.

Three regions where COVID-19 cases are low will move to the restrictions system on Wednesday, with the rest staggered over the coming weeks.

“Our No. 1 priority will always be protecting the health and safety of all individuals, families and workers across the province,” Ford said in a statement.

The province is also changing the rules for the strictest category of the restrictions system that will allow previously closed business to reopen with capacity limits of 25 per cent.

“We must also consider the severe impact COVID-19 is having on our businesses,” Ford said. “We are strengthening and adjusting the framework to allow more businesses to safely reopen.”

1:30 p.m.

Calls on the decline to Montreal police, with 219 curfew tickets last week

Last week, the Montreal police department received 448 calls related to public health measures, the lowest number recorded since the beginning of the year.

Officers gave out a total of 586 tickets, including 219 for curfew violations, according to statistics published by the force.

The curfew came into effect on Jan. 9 and is still in force.

Across the province last week, police officers handed out 984 tickets for breaking health rules.

chart, bar chart

12:25 p.m.

Quebec isn’t alone in relaxing COVID-19 restrictions

From The Canadian Press:

Relaxed COVID-19 restrictions go into effect today in Quebec, Alberta and Nova Scotia, while Ontario Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to announce a reopening plan for that province this afternoon.

In Quebec, non-essential stores, personal-care salons and museums reopen today across the province, while in six, less populated regions, gyms and in-person restaurant dining also reopen.

Alberta restaurants are open for in-person dining today, and one-on-one training at gyms can resume.

Relaxed restrictions on organized gatherings go into effect today in Nova Scotia, which had eight active cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday.

Ford is expected to announce that the state of emergency declared last month will expire on Tuesday but that the stay-at-home order will remain as Ontario transitions back to the colour-coded system of restrictions.

12:15 p.m.

Why some snowbirds are flying south despite COVID

What do some birds, butterflies and whales have in common with tens of thousands of older Canadians? They all participate in an annual migration by heading south for the winter.

Read our full story.

12:15 p.m.

Here’s what an effective rapid testing campaign would look like — if our health officials made it happen

As tensions rise in Canada over vaccine supply problems, experts advising the federal government say we’re falling woefully short in another area that could make a huge difference in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic: rapid testing.

Read our full story.

12:05 p.m.

Quebec police officers conducted 1,537 visits to check on people in home quarantine

11:50 a.m.

Don’t delay second vaccine dose, Fauci says

Until vaccine deliveries pick up, Quebec has decided to delay second doses in a bid to inoculate as many people as possible with a first dose. Second doses are supposed to be administered within up to 90 days in the province.

Yesterday, Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the United States, said he does not agree with those who are pushing for such a strategy in his country, according to The Hill, a U.S. news website.

“One of the problems (is) that if you want to really study it to see that, the amount of time that it will take, the amount of people you would have to put into the study – by that time, we will already be in the arena of having enough – of having enough vaccines to go around anyway,” Fauci said.

Fauci said that “from a theoretical standpoint” information on the durability of a single dose would be helpful.

“But what we have right now, and what we must go with, is the scientific data that we’ve accumulated, and it’s really very solid,” he added. “We know that with each of these it’s either 21 days or 28 days. You can do both. You can get as many people in their first dose at the same time as adhering, within reason, to the timetable of the second dose.”

11:25 a.m.

Quebec administered 1,529 vaccine doses yesterday


11:10 a.m.

Updated charts: Quebec cases, deaths

11:05 a.m.

Quebec reports 853 new cases, lowest since October

Quebec has recorded 853 new cases of COVID-19, the provincial government announced this morning.

That’s the lowest number of new cases since Oct. 26.

In addition, 17 new deaths were reported, including two over the previous 24 hours.

Among the other deaths, 11 occurred between Feb. 1 and 6, and four occurred before Feb. 1.

Two deaths previously attributed to the pandemic have been removed from the death toll after further tests revealed they were not related to COVID-19.

Some other key statistics from Quebec’s latest COVID-19 update, published this morning:

  • Montreal Island: 393 new cases, 5 deaths.
  • 6 more people are in hospital. Total hospitalizations: 969.
  • 2 more people are in intensive care. Total in ICU: 160.
  • 1,529 additional vaccine doses administered, bringing the total to 259,188.
  • On Saturday, Quebec conducted 22,502 tests. That’s the last day for which screening data is available.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 270,911 cases and 10,046 deaths linked to COVID-19. A total of 249,361 people who have contracted the disease have since recovered.

10:40 a.m.

In west-central Montreal, mass vaccinations to be held at hockey arena, shopping centre

A hockey arena, a shopping centre and an office building have been chosen as mass vaccination centres by the CIUSSS West-Central Montreal health authority.

As the province prepares to begin vaccinating the general public against COVID-19, starting with seniors age 80 and up in late February, mass vaccination centres are being set up to deliver the inoculations.

The CIUSSS West-Central health authority covers the following neighbourhoods: Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Westmount, Côte-St-Luc, Montreal West, Town of Mount Royal, Outremont, Park Extension, part of the downtown Ville-Marie borough and part of the Plateau Mont-Royal borough.

Read our full story, by Katherine Wilton.

10:10 a.m.

Canada’s sluggish vaccination program won’t get better this week

Canada’s languid vaccination efforts have no chance of improvement this week with just 70,200 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine scheduled to start arriving.

Next week, Canada is supposed to get around 335,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses, which would be the single biggest vaccine delivery to Canada thus far.

No Moderna doses are scheduled this week, with future amounts uncertain.

Read our full story.

10:05 a.m.

Here’s how Montreal’s lockdown changes, starting today

Montreal is in the red zone, also known as Level 4 – Maximum Alert.






10 a.m.

Open, closed, open, closed, open: Stores, museums, hair salons unlock their doors

As Quebec’s downward trend for COVID-19 cases continues, the province on Monday eased confinement constrictions and allowed non-essential business, hair salons, libraries and museums to reopen to the public.

Read our full story.

10 a.m.

As restrictions ease, experts want the focus on reducing school outbreaks

Health experts are alarmed by an increase in the number of schools with COVID-19 outbreaks, just as Quebec is set to ease restrictions on Monday.

Read our full story.

10 a.m.

Quebec nurses, other health-care workers reject government’s latest offer

The union representing 5,000 nurses, auxiliary nurses and respiratory therapists in Laval, the Gaspé, Quebec’s north shore and northern Quebec has rejected the provincial government’s latest offer to renew its collective agreement.

Read our full story.

10 a.m.

‘The end of the rope’: Quebec doctors on the COVID-19 front line demand change

Saying they have reached “the end of the rope,” an association of front-line doctors in emergency rooms, intensive-care units and COVID-19 wards are calling for Quebec’s health-care system to be modernized and improved.

Read our full story.

9:15 a.m.

Here’s where Montrealers can get tested today

Montrealers can be screened at test centres across the island.

You can check screening clinic wait times here .

8:45 a.m.

The situation across Canada

This was the situation across Canada as of last night, according to the Canada COVID-19 Situational Awareness Dashboard.


8:30 a.m.

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