Quebec health institute says no local transmission of Omicron after one-day survey

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MONTREAL — Quebec's public health institute says a "one-off" screening survey of a single day of COVID-19 cases last week found no evidence of local community transmission of the Omicron variant of concern.

The Institut national de santé publique du Québec said it will continue to adjust its strategy toward the Omicron variant.

For its survey, the province public's health lab screened 894 of the 1,174 positive COVID-19 cases on Nov. 30. The screening turned up zero variant cases.

"This screening day allows us to have a 'snapshot' of the current situation in Quebec," the institute said in a statement. "Currently, this variant does not seem to be circulating in the community, apart from cases related to travellers."

Quebec has declared only one case of Omicron variant, in a traveller returning from Nigeria. The case was confirmed by sequencing on Nov. 29.

The province has set up screening to quickly detect the Omicron variant, and travellers from abroad who test positive for COVID-19 will be screened for the variant before samples are sent for confirmation through genome sequencing.

The Omicron variant was declared "of concern" by the World Health Organization, but study is ongoing to determine whether it is actually more transmissible or more resistant to vaccines.

"It is too early to provide an evidence-based assessment of the risk it poses," the institute said.

The province reported 1,189 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus Monday.

Of those new cases, about 56 per cent involved people who were unvaccinated or less than two weeks removed from receiving their first dose. According to Health Department data, 80 per cent of cases reported Monday involved people aged 59 and younger.

The seven-day average for new daily infections is 1,205.

The Health Department said 226 people are in hospital, an increase of seven patients, with 62 in intensive care, an increase of three.

There are 10,272 active cases in the province.

The province administered 19,746 doses of vaccine on Sunday, including 13,000 doses for children aged five to 11 and more than 2,600 third doses for those 70 and older.

Health officials say more than 180,000 of the youngest eligible age group have received a first dose and more than 94,500 others have booked an appointment.

Health Minister Christian Dubé is scheduled to hold an update on the province's vaccination efforts in Quebec City on Tuesday afternoon.

According to health officials, 86 per cent of eligible Quebecers five and older have received a first dose of vaccine, with 81 per cent considered adequately vaccinated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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