Could Quebec face 5th wave blockages? We asked experts

The COVID-19 situation suddenly becomes intense again in various parts of Europe, with lockdowns imposed in Austria, tighter restrictions in Belgium and the Netherlands and hospitalizations and numbers of cases reaching crisis levels in Germany . Should we therefore expect the worst for Montreal and Quebec? Will there be a fifth wave?

For now, the experts’ response is categorized as’ probably not ‘for several reasons – and the public can take steps to ensure that outcome.

Keep in mind that these are just predictions. New developments – like the new variant detected in South Africa – could be a game-changer. As Montreal doctor Christopher Labos observed, “It will be very difficult to be definitive about the future, because as the old joke says, prediction is difficult, especially when it comes to the future. “.

An increase in the number of cases in Quebec is expected this winter due to people spending more time indoors and holiday gatherings increase contact, said Prativa Baral, epidemiologist and doctoral candidate at Johns. Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

But Baral said she did not expect “widespread lockdowns”, with localized responses to outbreaks more likely.

Nora Loreto, a journalist who has written extensively on the pandemic in Quebec, agrees.

Overall vaccination rates are high, so “if there is an area where pockets of unvaccinated individuals are feeding a wave and whether they are unvaccinated individuals or children, it is possible that restrictions be reintroduced in these regions “.

Loreto highlighted the current situation in Nunavik, where she stated that the number of active cases is extremely high and the vaccination rate of citizens and health workers is lower than the provincial average.

Why can we hope

One of the reasons Quebec is unlikely to follow Austria’s lead is the different vaccination rates, experts said. Austria represents around 66% of the total population, while Quebec is at 77% at the time of writing.

In addition, Austria “has just started implementing a vaccination pass in restaurants and bars over the past two weeks,” Baral said.

“While we have had it for some time, which not only makes indoor spaces safer, but also encourages vaccination in the unvaccinated. “

New vaccinations among adult Quebecers have slowed, but they haven’t stopped, which Loreto says is good news. And immunizing children five years and older is also “a game changer.”

“I think there’s hardly any way a fifth wave will be as bad as, certainly not the first, probably not the second, probably not even the third.”

There are still a lot of worries

Baral cites the lowest vaccination rate among young people, who “are also found to be the most mobile, and are therefore more likely to spread the virus”.

Even though our vaccination rate is higher than in Austria, there are still a lot of unvaccinated people around, Baral said, and that means risks “for themselves, of spreading the virus to vulnerable people, where the vaccine may not be as protective “.

“As long as we have this large chunk of the unvaccinated among us, increases in hospitalizations, in particular, are inevitable,” she said.

Labos explained that a sudden increase in hospitalizations could mean the need for more severe restrictions, given the dire staff situation in the healthcare system. But this result is not guaranteed.

Public health officials must also carefully manage public expectations, he said, easing restrictions without going too far. “Things can get out of hand pretty quickly, if we’re not careful.”

“If all of a sudden everyone decides to stop wearing masks, and winter arrives, and the virus is circulating, if the cases rise enough, it can lead to more and more hospitalizations. And if we have a really bad flu year, on top of the COVID cases, and now you have people with both COVID and the flu landing in a hospital, well, hospitals could be overwhelmed, especially considering of the labor shortage we have. “

What can you do?

It’s pretty straightforward, said Baral.

“Don’t you want a lockdown?” Nobody wants it! Get vaccinated, even if you are young and healthy; and please keep your mask on, especially in crowded indoor environments. “

Faster tests and programs to improve indoor ventilation are also essential, Baral said, and governments and institutions should prioritize these measures, and others, to make everyone safer.

Benefiting from relaxed public health guidelines while respecting some of the easy behaviors we have adopted during the pandemic will make a big difference, Loreto said.

“So even though the virus itself is not in your head, you still put on your mask, you still sanitize your hands, you still do things like that, it will protect you against the seasonal flu too. there’s nothing wrong with a lot of this stuff, which is great. “

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