COVID-19: Quebecers let their guard down this summer | Coronavirus

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COVID-19&nbsp ;: Quebecers let their guard down this summer | Coronavirus

The Festival d'été de Québec has generated cases of COVID-19, according to public health.

The increase in the number of COVID-19 cases observed in this seventh wave may have something to do with the perception Quebecers had of the pandemic at the dawn of the hot season. According to data from the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ), the intention to protect themselves against the virus has never been so low among the population.

< p class="e-p">The authorities also felt the need to take stock of the health situation in Quebec on Thursday. National Public Health Director Dr. Luc Boileau has made no secret that large gatherings like the Festival d'été de Québec have contributed to generating new cases of COVID-19.

Health workers, for many, attended the Festival. They came back and got [COVID] after a few days. When a healthcare worker has COVID, we try not to bring him back to the hospital setting right away, he said. He urged the population to be cautious for the future and encouraged them to wear the mask.

As the number of cases increases, the healthcare system is again under pressure.

Several ingredients were in place for a new wave of infections, if the reports are to be believed. data from the INSPQ, which conducts biweekly surveys on the attitudes and behaviors of the population in relation to the pandemic.

Between June 24 and July 6, the survey measured the lowest adherence to measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 since these polls began in October 2020. During this period, barely one in four said they always washed their hands and maintained physical distance from others.

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Adherence to recommended or mandatory barrier gestures eroded over time and reached a low point at the start of the summer.

This proportion gradually eroded over the over time. It reached 55% in the fall of 2020 and 48% during the Omicron wave last winter. There is actually a decrease in membership. This is not surprising in a context where mandatory measures have been removed, says Ève Dubé, anthropologist and researcher at INSPQ.

Among 18-24 year olds, the proportion is even lower, at 13%. People over the age of 60 continue to protect themselves more, while a third say they still adopt barrier behaviors against COVID-19.

Obviously, older people may feel more at risk if they catch COVID, so they generally tend to continue to follow these measures, while in younger people, we say "never" or "sometimes", notes Ms. Dubé.

Ève Dubé is an anthropologist at the INSPQ.

Another notable fact raised by the researcher: the intention to maintain adherence to certain measures did not necessarily arise once the obligations were lifted. In the case of the mask, many people had demonstrated a desire to continue to keep it in certain situations. What we saw was that once the requirement was lifted, most people stopped wearing it.

More Earlier this year, another INSPQ-affiliated team demonstrated that social contacts follow a seasonal curve. Summer, the holiday season and spring breaks were particularly conducive to the transmission of the virus.

Quebecers were also inflated with optimism about the pandemic situation at the start of summer 2022. An overwhelming proportion (85%) believed and still believe that the worst is behind us.

The same positivism could be observed in the summer of 2021 (86%) but had declined last winter (26%) during the Omicron wave and the return of the curfew after the holiday season, marked by an alert sent to cell phones on December 31.

With the lifting of health restrictions announced in March and the end of compulsory mask-wearing in mid-May, the wind of optimism has blown again (86%).

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The optimism of Quebecers is generally very high in the summer, whereas it drops during the fall or winter waves.

Government signals went in the same direction as this rise in the #x27;mood of the population.

In a press briefing three months ago, the Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, had mentioned the end of a long fight against the virus. He then undertook not to impose any more population measures but only to ease the restrictions.

It now remains to be seen if the seventh wave will have an effect on the attitude of the population, like the Omicron variant. Until now, however, Ève Dubé does not see such a correlation in the polls.

This trend towards slackening is now worrying health professionals as it approaches fall and back to school.

For Dr. Donald Vinh, an associate microbiologist at McGill University, public health policy on mask wearing is a particular source of concern. The importance of the mask is not emphasized enough, he insists, deeming the low public support for this measure disappointing.

“There is a misunderstanding of the importance of the mask to protect everyone, everyone in society, the healthcare system. I think it's a failed communication. »

— Dr. Donald Vinh, Associate Microbiologist at McGill University

Dr Vinh recalls that the waves of COVID-19, the seventh being supported by community transmission, are having impacts on all areas of our society, be it education or the economy. He wants to see the reappearance of a certain collective consciousness and a desire to protect each other. It calls on all segments of the population, even those least at risk, to look beyond their own situation.

The microbiologist does not have a crystal ball, but he still fears that the start of the school year could relaunch the seventh wave or even see a new one appear. I am not JoJo Savard, he however takes care to say out of caution.

Pandemic fatigue and the lifting of health measures are phenomena observed elsewhere in the world. The case of Quebec is therefore not unique.

Last week, Christina Pagel, director of the clinical operations research unit at University College London, said the world had entered a vicious circle. How is this a sustainable approach? How many waves will we see before leaders act? she asked.

In her opinion, it's not normal to have a wave in the summer, in Canada as elsewhere. It is not normal that we cancel hundreds of flights because we lack employees. It is not normal that we lack teachers in schools because they are infected; some have been two, three or even four times. We have not returned to normal, she decided during an interview with Radio-Canada.

With the collaboration of Pierre-Alexandre Bolduc

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