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Britain will only vaccinate children against Covid 'if necessary', says government adviser – Daily Mail

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Britain will only vaccinate children against Covid ‘if necessary’, says government adviser after leaked plans revealed ministers want to start jabbing millions of under-18s from August in bid to boost immunity

  • Professor Adam Finn, from Bristol University, said ‘no decisions’ made on jabs
  • He said the UK would only immunise children if it needed to to stop virus spread
  • Leaked plans suggest ministers want to start vaccinating in August
  • Plans hinge on ongoing trials to test effectiveness and safety of jabs on children 

The UK has not agreed any plans to vaccinate children against Covid and will only do it ‘if necessary’, a government adviser insisted today.

Professor Adam Finn, a child vaccination expert at Bristol University and member of the JCVI advisory group, said ‘no decisions have been made’.

Leaked government plans last night suggested ministers want to start getting jabs to millions of under-18s from August to try to achieve herd immunity in the UK.

But results from clinical trials involving children haven’t been released yet — and the effectiveness and side effects of the jabs when given to youngsters are unknown. 

AstraZeneca and Pfizer are both testing their vaccines on under-18s and expect to announce their findings by the summer.

Scientists say that giving Covid jabs to children is morally complicated because they have almost zero short-term risk from the disease, and would only be vaccinated to protect old people. It’s still unknown, however, how long Covid might affect them.

More than 28million adults in the UK have had their first vaccine dose so far and the NHS is on track to reach all over-18s by the end of July.

Professor Adam Finn, a member of government advisory group the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he was not aware of any decisions being made on plans to vaccinate children against Covid

Professor Adam Finn, a member of government advisory group the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he was not aware of any decisions being made on plans to vaccinate children against Covid

Vaccinating children could be controversial because it is likely to be focused on protecting older people rather than the children themselves. Other vaccines given to children, such as for measles and meningitis, protect against diseases that are very dangerous and potentially deadly to children, but the same is not true of Covid-19 (stock image)

Vaccinating children could be controversial because it is likely to be focused on protecting older people rather than the children themselves. Other vaccines given to children, such as for measles and meningitis, protect against diseases that are very dangerous and potentially deadly to children, but the same is not true of Covid-19 (stock image)

Professor Finn said on Good Morning Britain: ‘If it does turn out to be necessary to immunise children, I think it is more likely that we would prioritise teenagers over younger children, simply because the evidence we have at the moment is that transmission of the virus is more likely to occur from and between teenagers who are a little bit more like adults.

‘I think what we need to learn before that, what proportion of the population we need to immunise in order to get effective herd immunity and to suppress circulation of the virus.

‘In order to do that we need to have a clear understanding of how efficiently the vaccines actually interrupt infection and transmission and that evidence is still on its way at the moment.’ 

VACCINE-MAKERS ARE TRIALLING JABS ON CHILDREN 

Whether vaccination of children or teenagers goes ahead will depend on the results of ongoing clinical trials of the vaccines.

Currently, jabs are only approved for over-18s because younger people weren’t included in the early studies.

All the main suppliers to the UK – Pfizer and BioNTech; Oxford University and AstraZeneca; and Moderna are carrying out trials now to see if the vaccines work on youngsters.

OXFORD/ASTRAZENECA 

Oxford is testing its jab on 300 six to 17-year-olds in England and results are expected by the summer.

PFIZER/BIONTECH 

Pfizer and BioNTech have enrolled 2,259 12- to 15-year-olds in a trial of their vaccine, and plan to do the same tests on five- to 11-year-olds later in 2021.

MODERNA 

And Moderna announced this month that it was testing its vaccine on 6,750 children aged from six months to 11 in the US and Canada as well as a separate trial on 12- to 17-year-olds. These results are also expected later in the year.

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The UK will try to achieve herd immunity – in which so many people are protected that the virus can’t spread – with Covid vaccines.

But if the threshold of protection needed is high – scientists say it is likely higher than two thirds, and even vaccinating 100 per cent of adults with a 100 per cent effective vaccine, which won’t happen, would only offer 75 per cent – children may need vaccinating too otherwise the virus will continue spreading among them.

Although most won’t get sick, the long-term effects of the virus aren’t well understood, and more cases means a higher risk that some will get seriously ill or that the virus will make its way into adults for whom the jab hasn’t worked.

Even vaccinating all adults wouldn’t offer total protection because the jabs don’t stop 100 per cent of Covid cases.

Professor Finn told The Telegraph: ‘Children constitute close to quarter of the population, so even if we could achieve 100 per cent uptake of vaccines across the adult population, it only gets you to 75 per cent coverage.’

But he denied this morning that there were plans in motion to vaccinate children.

He told GMB: ‘As far as I know there has been no decision made to immunise children starting in August, or indeed any decision been taken to immunise children at all at this point.

‘But it’s certainly something that we might need to do.’

He added: ‘We clearly won’t want to do that unless it’s necessary.

‘But if it is necessary we will by then know whether the vaccines are entirely safe and effective and we’re giving the right dose and so on, so that we go forward with that later in the year.’ 

A plan leaked to The Telegraph has suggested that up to 11million under-18s could get jabs by the start of the autumn term, months ahead of schedule.

Whether this goes ahead will depend on the results of ongoing clinical trials of the vaccines.

All the main suppliers to the UK – Pfizer and BioNTech, Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and Moderna — are carrying out trials now to see if the vaccines work on youngsters.  

Oxford is testing its jab on 300 six to 17-year-olds in England and results are expected by the summer.

Pfizer and BioNTech have enrolled 2,259 12- to 15-year-olds in a trial of their vaccine, and plan to do the same tests on five- to 11-year-olds later in 2021.

And Moderna announced this month that it was testing its vaccine on 6,750 children aged from six months to 11 in the US and Canada as well as a separate trial on 12- to 17-year-olds. These results are also expected later in the year. 

Vaccination figures show another 329,897 first doses were administered on Monday, taking the total to 28.3million. And a further 82,300 second doses were dished out

Vaccination figures show another 329,897 first doses were administered on Monday, taking the total to 28.3million. And a further 82,300 second doses were dished out

Department of Health bosses announced 5,379 infections, which was up 1.6 per cent from last Tuesday

Department of Health bosses announced 5,379 infections, which was up 1.6 per cent from last Tuesday

Another 112 victims were also added to the official toll, a week on-week rise of 1.8 per cent. The overall trend for deaths is, however, still heading downwards

Another 112 victims were also added to the official toll, a week on-week rise of 1.8 per cent. The overall trend for deaths is, however, still heading downwards

Children did NOT play a key role in spreading coronavirus, study finds 

Children are unlikely to have played a significant role in the spread of coronavirus during the first wave last year, a study has revealed. 

The German study enrolled parents and children from families in a trial which ran between April and May 2020 – before new variants, which may be better at infecting children, emerged.

The research found children were far less likely get infected than their guardians and are also less likely to pass it on to someone in their household.  

A total of 4,964 people (half parents and half children) were enrolled in the study, published in January in JAMA Paediatrics.

The average age of the children was six, but spanned from one to ten years old, and the parental average age was 40.

All participants were swabbed and also had blood tests to scour for any sign of antibodies.

Just two people – a parent and child from the same family – were currently infected.

Blood tests revealed 1.8 per cent of the adults had antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19. The figure for children was just 0.6 per cent, a threefold decrease.

The data also showed that there were 56 instances of at least one of the family members having the virus.

A previously infected adult and an uninfected child was 4.3 times more common than a previously infected child and an uninfected parent.

The researchers from University Children’s Hospital, Im Neuenheimer Feld in Heidelberg and Ulm University Medical Centre wrote: ‘It is unlikely that children have boosted the pandemic.’

The study published in January was conducted when schools were closed and children were therefore less exposed to the virus, but researchers not involved with the study say this does not mean the findings are irrelevant. 

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Vaccinating children could be controversial because it is likely to be focused on protecting older people rather than the children themselves.

Other vaccines given to children, such as for measles and meningitis, protect against diseases that are very dangerous and potentially deadly to children, but the same is not true of Covid.

Figures from Public Health England (PHE) show the risk of dying from Covid for over-80s is 1,513 per 100,000 people – 1.5 per cent of everyone who catches the virus.

But for children aged five to nine, this risk of death after catching Covid is just 0.1 per 100,000 – one in a million.

People who back the child vaccination policy argue that it is important to minimise the risk of infection, despite some academics arguing children do not contribute to the spread of Covid.

Israel is the first country in the world to have rolled out vaccines to under-18s, with 16 and 17-year-olds having jabs after the health ministry decided it was safe.  

If the proposal to jab children goes ahead, this would mean 11million could be vaccinated before the start of the autumn term. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said ‘no decisions have been made on whether children should be offered vaccinations.’

One source involved in the plan told The Telegraph that vaccines for children ‘could begin by late summer,’ stating specifically that August was the date.

Another source said that this would be the ‘earliest’ the roll-out for under-18s would begin.

Only children who are at a high risk of Covid are currently able to have a vaccine. 

The proposal to vaccinate children underlines the extent to which the government feels it must drive down cases ahead of next winter.

Boris Johnson last night conceded at the Downing Street press briefing that eradicating Covid wasn’t on the table.

‘I’m not sure that eradication makes sense in a globalised economy for one country alone,’ the PM said. 

Other efforts to increase the coverage of the vaccine programme include proposals to make it mandatory for care home workers to get a jab.

Matt Hancock confirmed yesterday that this is being considered by ministers, who are fearful of low uptake rates among the critical staff.

The Care Quality Commission, the care home regulator, says more than 41,000 people living in homes in England have died of Covid since the pandemic began.  

Vaccines can protect people living in the homes, most of whom are very elderly and have dementia or other health problems, but only if uptake is high.

Data from NHS England show that only one out of 10,413 care homes in the country had not been visited by a vaccination team and 94 per cent of all residents have had at least one dose of a jab.

Pete Calveley, CEO of Barchester Healthcare

Pete Calveley, CEO of Barchester Healthcare

But the rate is much lower among staff – 76 per cent have had a first dose, meaning one in four have not done it in the three months since the rollout began.

There are still around 112,000 unvaccinated carers working in homes, the figures show.

Pete Calveley, CEO of care provider Barchester Healthcare, said the human rights of people living in care homes were at stake and staff must protect them, and said he hoped vaccination would become a legal requirement.

The firm was one of the first to announce that it would not hire any new carers who haven’t been vaccinated and all existing staff must get a jab by the end of April. 

Hesitancy is thought to be high among care staff because many of them are from low income or less educated households or black or ethnic minority communities. All of those groups are known to be more likely to refuse a vaccine.  

Mr Calveley said the safety of his residents is a higher priority than people’s personal choice not to have a jab and that he hoped the government would make it the law. 

‘In the end, it is a hugely difficult decision,’ Mr Calveley told BBC Radio 4.

‘We have an overriding responsibility and a statutory duty to keep our residents as safe as possible, and that is in law.

‘We also have to understand human rights and we have to understand employment law.

‘But we believe that the risk to our residents – and the demonstrable increased risk if you have not had a vaccination – trumps all of that.’

NHS data show that fewer than half of care home staff have been immunised in some areas – with uptake worst in London – despite jabs being available to them since December

NHS data show that fewer than half of care home staff have been immunised in some areas – with uptake worst in London – despite jabs being available to them since December 

He said that all Barchester staff get tested three times per week and only five per cent of them tested positive after being vaccinated, compared to 15 per cent of unvaccinated workers. 

‘There is three times the risk of bringing it into a care home,’ he said.

All staff at the homes had been given regular meetings to discuss any concerns about the vaccine and for bosses to encourage them to get the jab. 

They were shown data proving the jabs were protecting their colleagues as evidence came through that they were testing positive less often, and even invited to seminars with scientists to talk through the vaccines, he said.

WHY ARE CHILDREN LESS AT RISK FROM COVID-19?

Children are less at risk of developing severe Covid symptoms and dying from the disease due to a host of differences between the bodies and immune systems of youngsters and adults, a study shows.

Australian researchers have identified several specific physiological differences which may explain why Covid-19 is rarely severe or fatal in children.

These include strong, undamaged cells in their blood vessels which prevent inflammation and clotting; elevated levels of vitamin D; an immune system that is both fast acting and well-oiled; and fewer ACE2 receptors, which the coronavirus uses to infect cells.

While Covid-19 causes well-documented respiratory problems in adults, particularly the vulnerable and elderly, other respiratory conditions also plague children.

However, society’s youngest are demonstrably less affected by coronavirus infection, making up only a tiny proportion of cases, hospital admissions and deaths.

A recent study from the US looked at hospital admissions of children at seven different hospitals and found just just four per cent of children test positive for the virus.

The research looked at tests of more than 135,000 children who went to hospital for various reasons before September 8.

It revealed only 5,374 (4.0 per cent) of patients tested positive and, of this small percentage, only 359 (6.7 per cent) were hospitalised, with 99 in intensive care.

Eight of the infected patients (0.15 per cent) later died. Six of the deaths were patients with ‘complex preexisting comorbidities’, the scientists say.

But why this is the case has thus far remained a mystery, with scientists and doctors trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. 

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Canada finance minister: Pandemic an opportunity to bring in national childcare

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic and its damaging impact on women has underlined the need for a national childcare plan, which would also help the economic recovery, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.

Since taking up her job in August, Freeland has repeatedly spoken about a “feminist agenda,” and has said childcare will be part of a stimulus package worth up to C$100 billion ($79.6 billion) over three years. She will unveil details in her April 19 budget.

“I really believe COVID-19 has created a window of political opportunity and maybe an epiphany … on the importance of early learning and childcare,” Freeland told a online convention of Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party.

The budget is set to be a springboard for an election that Liberal insiders say is likely in the second half of the year.

Canadian governments of various stripes have mused about a national childcare program for decades but never acted, thanks in part to the cost and also the need to negotiate with the 10 provinces, which deliver many social programs.

Freeland said a childcare program would help counter “an incredibly dangerous drop” in female employment since the start of the pandemic.

“It is a surefire way to drive jobs and economic growth … you have higher participation of women in the labor force,” Freeland said. “My hope … is that being able to make that economic argument as well is going be to one of the ways that we get this done.”

Freeland, who is taking part this week in meetings of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations and the International Monetary Fund, said U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had told her they saw early learning and child care as a driver for economic recovery.

($1=1.2560 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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COVID-19 in Ottawa: Fast Facts for April 10, 2021

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OTTAWA —
Good morning. Here is the latest news on COVID-19 and its impact on Ottawa.

Fast Facts:

  • Ottawa’s top doctor warns schools could remain closed after the April break next week
  • Ottawa sets new record for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on Friday
  • The city of Ottawa admits it doesn’t have enough supply to vaccinate residents 50 and older in high-priority neighbourhoods
  • Kingston closes popular waterfront park to prevent COVID-19 spread

COVID-19 by the numbers in Ottawa (Ottawa Public Health data):

  • New COVID-19 cases: 242 new cases on Friday
  • Total COVID-19 cases: 19,030
  • COVID-19 cases per 100,000 (previous seven days): 146.0
  • Positivity rate in Ottawa: 9.2 per cent (April 2 to April 8)
  • Reproduction Number: 1.05 (seven day average)

Testing:

Who should get a test?

Ottawa Public Health says you can get a COVID-19 test at an assessment centre, care clinic, or community testing site if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are showing COVID-19 symptoms;
  • You have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by Ottawa Public Health or exposure notification through the COVID Alert app;
  • You are a resident or work in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by Ottawa Public Health;
  • You are a resident, a worker or a visitor to long-term care, retirement homes, homeless shelters or other congregate settings (for example: group homes, community supported living, disability-specific communities or congregate settings, short-term rehab, hospices and other shelters);
  • You are a person who identifies as First Nations, Inuit or Métis;
  • You are a person travelling to work in a remote First Nations, Inuit or Métis community;
  • You received a preliminary positive result through rapid testing;
  • You require testing 72 hours before a scheduled (non-urgent or emergent) surgery (as recommended by your health care provider);
  • You are a patient and/or their 1 accompanying escort tra­velling out of country for medical treatment;
  • You are an international student that has passed their 14-day quarantine period;
  • You are a farm worker;
  • You are an educator who cannot access pharmacy-testing; or
  • You are in a targeted testing group as outlined in guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Ottawa:

There are several sites for COVID-19 testing in Ottawa. To book an appointment, visit https://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/shared-content/assessment-centres.aspx

  • The Brewer Ottawa Hospital/CHEO Assessment Centre: Open Monday to Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • The Moodie Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Open Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (testing only)
  • The Heron Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • The Ray Friel Care and Testing Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (testing only)
  • COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Howard Darwin Centennial Arena: Open daily 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
  • Centretown Community Health Centre: Open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Sandy Hill Community Health Centre: Open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 pm.
  • Somerset West Community Health Centre: Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Wednesday.
  • COVID-19 Drive-Thru Assessment Centre at 300 Coventry Road: Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Vaccine eligibility screening tool:

To check and see if you are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Ottawa, click here.

COVID-19 screening tool:

The COVID-19 screening tool for students heading back to in-person classes can be found here.

Symptoms:

Classic Symptoms: fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath

Other symptoms: sore throat, difficulty swallowing, new loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, pneumonia, new or unexplained runny nose or nasal congestion

Less common symptoms: unexplained fatigue, muscle aches, headache, delirium, chills, red/inflamed eyes, croup

Ottawa’s top doctor warns it’s “more likely than not” that all elementary and secondary schools in Ottawa will be closed for in-person learning after the April break.

“I am now thinking the probability that schools will close to in-person learning after the spring break is higher than the probability the COVID-19 situation will improve in time to keep schools open,” said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health.

“My heart is heavy because I know how important schools are to the health of our community.”

Etches says Ottawa Public Health will make a decision by next Wednesday on whether schools will reopen or close after the April Break.

Ottawa Public Health reported 242 new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Friday, the highest one-day case count in the capital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The surging numbers prompted the city’s medical officer of health to issue a rallying cry to Ottawa residents, saying the city has reached a key point in the COVID-19 “marathon.”

“We are tired. We’re fatigued. We want this to be over. And this is the point in our COVID marathon where we’re hitting the wall,” Dr. Vera Etches told reporters Friday. “This is our defining moment. It’s a moment where we’ve got to break through that wall.”

Ottawa’s positivity rate increased to 9.2 per cent for the period of April 2 to 8 from 8.8 per cent. Ottawa’s weekly incidence rate is now 146 cases per 100,000 people.

Residents aged 50 and over in three hot spot postal code areas in Ottawa can now book an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but the city warns it doesn’t have enough vaccine supply to vaccinate everyone.

On Friday, Ontario opened vaccine appointments at community clinics to residents born in 1971 or earlier who live in certain “hot spots.” In Ottawa, the hot spots have been identified as postal codes K1T, K1V, K2V.

A memo from Dr. Vera Etches and Ottawa’s general manager of emergency and protective services Anthony Di Monte said residents 50 years of age and older living in the provincially identified “hot spots” of K1T, K1V and K2V are eligible for vaccine appointments at community clinics.

Residents living in the high-priority neighbourhoods of Emerald Woods – Sawmill Creek and Greenboro East and Ledbury – Heron Gate and Ridgemont will have the option to book at either a community clinic or at a pop-up clinic.

COVID-19 vaccine Ottawa immunization clinic

One day after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared in Kingston’s University District, the city is closing the popular Breakwater Park until the end of the university school year to prevent large gatherings.

Mayor Bryan Paterson has issued an emergency order to close Breakwater Park for the next 10 days.

“This timeline coincides with students move-out, but can be extended if needed. As one of our most popular community parks, closing it is a last resort,” said Paterson in a statement

“Yesterday, however, we saw troubling instances of overcrowding, which is especially concerning given the current outbreak in the nearby University District.”

Pictures on social media showed dozens of people in the popular park along the waterfront on Thursday.  During the provincewide shutdown, outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of five people.

Kingston's Breakwater Park

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Average age of Quebec COVID-19 patients has dropped by 10 to 15 years, doctors say

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MONTREAL — Over the past two to three weeks, Dr. Francois Marquis, head of intensive care at Montreal’s Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital, says he started noticing the average age of COVID-19 patients dropping.People arriving at the hospital are on average, about 10 to 15 years younger than earlier patients in need of medical care after contracting COVID-19, he said in an interview Wednesday.

“We are starting to see what was very unlikely during the first wave: 30 or 40-year-olds without any previous medical history, people in good health,” Marquis said.

“They’re not seeing a doctor, they’re not taking any kind of medication, they don’t have diabetes, they don’t have high blood pressure — they just get sick.”

Marquis’s observations echo a warning earlier this week from Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, who said health officials across the country are reporting rising numbers of younger patients in hospitals who soon need intensive care.

“Many of them deteriorate quite quickly and have to be admitted to the ICU,” she said.

Dr. Gaston De Serres, an epidemiologist with Quebec’s public health institute, said the proportion of Quebecers over 80 in hospital with COVID-19 has been declining since mid-March — largely due to vaccination.

He said it’s not just the proportion of hospital patients who are younger that’s increasing, the overall number of younger patients is rising as well. De Serres said there were 40 people between 50 and 59 years old who were hospitalized the week of March 7. During the week of March 28, there were 54.But hospitalizations are still not rising significantly among people under 30. “It’s younger,” he said of the average age of patients. “It’s not young.”

Ten people between 20 and 29 years old were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Quebec the week of March 28, up from five two weeks earlier, De Serres said.

“If you have more cases, you will clearly have more hospitalizations, but the proportion of all hospitalized cases will remain small because these younger age groups are very low risk of being hospitalized.”

De Serres said he thinks more younger people are getting sick because the coronavirus variants of concern are more transmissible and they lead to more severe illness more frequently.

Mike Benigeri, director of the data bureau at the Institut national d’excellence en sante et services sociaux, a Quebec government health-care research institute, said that over the past two weeks, there has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of people aged 40 to 69 who have been infected with COVID-19. He said the percentage is even higher among people aged 18 to 30.

Marquis said older people and those with other medical conditions may notice a COVID-19 infection sooner. People who are healthier may not seek medical attention until they’re very ill, he added.

“They will push the limits of endurance up to the point when they say, OK, it’s enough, I really need to go to the hospital,” he said.

Despite the odds of dying being low among younger people, that doesn’t mean the consequences among the small group who do get severely ill are any smaller, he said.

“If you’re that unlucky guy, well, you’re going to die — and you’re not going die 1.5 per cent, you’re going be fully dead.”

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has repeatedly said that with vaccination protecting older people, the province will be able to tolerate more COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Quoc Nguyen, a gerontologist at the Universite de Montreal hospital centre, said while that may be true when it comes to deaths, it may not be the case for ICU capacity.

“When we look at one case in December versus one case in March, it seems that for a single case we have more intensive care than we used to before, but we don’t necessarily have more hospitalization,” he said.

It’s ICU capacity that worries Marquis. His ICU is supposed to have 24 beds, but because staff members have left the health-care system — particularly nurses — it now has a capacity of 14: seven beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients and seven for everyone else.

“I am really afraid that in two weeks we’re going to be in the same place as Ontario is right now and I don’t think that we can deal with that many patients,” he said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has imposed a four-week stay-at-home order after a third wave of COVID-19 started to overwhelm the health system.

“They’re going to saturate the ICU availability very, very quickly for a very long time,” Marquis said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2021.

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