As Premier Francois Legault and Public Health suggested, Quebec seems to be ignoring COVID instead of “living with the virus.”
“We are tired, so we pay less attention”, explained Mathieu Girdal, met on the avenue du Mont-Royal, when asked whether to continue taking action to limit transmission, such as wearing a mask.
Yesterday, as the sun was setting, Le Journal strolled through Montreal’s central districts and at the Festival d’été de Québec to meet Quebecers who, for the most part, admitted to shedding their veils and resuming their social lives.
However, the end of the health rules has led many people to forget about COVID, even though public health suggests “living with the virus” by continuing to take certain measures:
The government recommends always wearing a face covering when it is difficult to keep distance from others. Radio ads still carry this message heavily.
But despite this seventh wave, many Quebecers have abandoned the mask and have no intention of wearing it again anytime soon.
In April, a Léger-Le Journal-TVA-QUB poll reported that 73% of respondents said they would continue to wear a mask “most of the time or occasionally”.
Visiting a popular thrift store in Plaza Saint-Hubert and a busy grocery store in Plateau-Mont-Royal, Le Journal found that one in ten people wore a mask.
“We got used to the mask quickly, but we lost it quickly,” noted Fanny Blanchard, crossing the avenue du Mont-Royal.
At the Festival d’été de Québec, COVID-19 was not on people’s minds. In queues or on the Grande-Allée, people are packed like sardines.
The observation is that very few passers-by wear masks. Within hours, Le Journal saw a woman with her face covered over her chin. She refused to have her picture taken, unwilling to smile.
Living with the virus also means being able to avoid bigger waves. But Quebec failed to do so by spending its worst epidemic summer as a seventh wave hit the province.
Hospitalizations rose by 200 in a week, deaths are far higher than in previous years and nearly 7,000 workers are out of the health network, while hospital occupancy rates are exploding in many areas.
Not forgetting that “community transmission is very strong,” as Dr. Marie-France Renault, an adviser to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, confirmed at a press conference this week.
Finally, to learn to live with the virus, experts suggest minimizing travel. The reverse is happening.
Many Quebecers have left the province this summer, a testament to the chaos that has reigned at the Montreal-Trudeau airport since the start of the summer.
Traffic has returned to 70% of pre-epidemic levels.
In fact, many people have stopped paying attention to the evolution of the epidemiological situation.
“The whole population has moved on, people are starting to turn the page,” said Emmanuel Lazzarini, a cross on Avenue du Mont-Royal in Montreal.
In Quebec, Sylvain Gallant, sitting in front of a beer with friends while waiting for the show, explains, “We’re back to the way things were before COVID.”
Audrey Latulip and her friends chose downtown Quebec specifically to celebrate a friend’s bachelor party.
“The virus is weak. You have to live with it. In my head, it doesn’t exist anymore. Just like the common cold […] We have to come back from COVID,” she said.
On the other hand, there are some bottles of hand sanitizer gel at the Festival d’Ette site and at the entrance of shops.
Illusion that covid will disappear in summer
If Quebecers seem indifferent to the seventh wave of COVID-19, it’s because they’re being sent the wrong message that the pandemic will take a break this summer, an expert denies.
- Oliver Faucher, The Journal of Montreal
“The message we sent by pulling out all the stops is no problem. Then, when it came back to say there was a problem, there was no one who wanted to wear masks or other measures. »
This is how Jacques Lapierre, a retired virologist, analyzes the attitude of Quebecers in the wake of the Covid wave, which caused the province’s mid-summer hospitalization rate to rise.
Worst summer yet
He said the summers of 2020 and 2021 were also hot enough to give people the false impression that the virus would take a break.
“It’s not a seasonal virus, he thunders. It’s a virus that doesn’t exist when you protect yourself and exists when you don’t protect yourself. In the last two summers there have been measures like masks, vaccine passports. »
With no mid-summer surge in 2020 and 2021, Quebec faces its worst summer since the pandemic began. There were 47 and 34 deaths in the weeks of 4th and 11th July respectively. There has never been a week in July with more than 20 deaths in the past two years.
To slow the progression of COVID-19, the virologist believes that people should at least wear a mask “in all indoor and outdoor places where there are many people” and that the population should be up to date with their vaccine doses.
Because if nothing is done, hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise.
“I think we gave a puck to every guy on the opposing team, we took away our goalie and we told ourselves: the puck won’t go in the goal,” he explains.