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Quebec City health network 'on brink of service breakdown,' says deputy premier

MONTREAL — Rising COVID-19 cases in the Quebec City area risk causing a service breakdown in the local health-care network, Quebec's deputy premier warned Friday.
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MONTREAL — Rising COVID-19 cases in the Quebec City area risk causing a service breakdown in the local health-care network, Quebec's deputy premier warned Friday.

The Capitale nationale region, which includes Quebec City, holds the dubious distinction of having the highest number of active cases in the province per 100,000 people -- rising from 79 to 161 in three weeks. 

"I want to be extremely frank and crystal clear with you, if we keep on the same track as we are currently, we are going straight into a wall," Genevieve Guilbault told reporters in Quebec City. 

"The health-care system won't be able to take care of you anymore in some cases," she added, striking an admittedly alarmist tone but not introducing any new restrictions. 

The Quebec City area is already under a partial lockdown, with bars, gyms and entertainment venues closed. Indoor and outdoor gatherings outside of work settings are also prohibited.

"As long as the COVID cases stay high, we are on the brink of a service breakdown," Guilbault said.

She was joined at the news conference by local mayors including Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume, who said he expected the month of November to be difficult. 

"My feeling is we're at a tipping point and being at the tipping point means we have a chance out of two to be on the wrong side," Labeaume said.

The COVID-19 data from Quebec on Friday, however, wasn't all bad. The province reported 905 new cases of COVID-19 -- down from 1,033 the day before. Hospitalizations decreased by 13 for a total of 540, and 99 people were in intensive care, a drop of two. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Quebec has decreased by 25 over the past two days. 

Health authorities reported 12 more deaths linked to the virus, four of which occurred in the past 24 hours. Six deaths occurred between Oct. 16 and 21, while two took place at unknown dates, they said.

Also Friday, a Quebec health institute projected that the capacity dedicated to COVID-19 patients across the province's health network isn't expected to be surpassed.

The government-funded institute, called the Institut national d’excellence en sante et en services sociaux, said the number of new cases across all age groups for the week ending Oct. 18 remained stable compared to the previous week.

It said hospitalizations should stabilize or decrease across the province if COVID-19 transmission remains constant.

Quebec has reported a total of 98,226 COVID-19 infections -- 15,434 of which are considered active -- and 6,106 deaths linked to the virus. 

Health Minister Christian Dube said he was satisfied with the institute's positive forecast, but urged people to remain vigilant. He also cautioned that the projections didn't take into account recent outbreaks in private seniors residences. 

"I urge all Quebecers to remain cautious, despite the stabilization of cases," Dube said on Twitter. "We must continue to limit our number of contacts and reduce the number of cases."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2020.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press




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