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Quebec sees 'worrying spike' in COVID-19 infections among young people


MONTREAL - Quebec authorities said Monday the COVID-19 pandemic in the province remains largely under control, but described what they said was a worrying increase of infections among teens and young adults.

A significant percentage of new daily cases in Quebec involve people between the ages of 15-34, who are becoming infected at private gatherings, Deputy premier Genevieve Guilbault told a news conference.

“They are not invincible,” Guilbault said, referring to the “worrying spike in contagion” among Quebec youth. “That's why we're asking them to mobilize themselves and their friends ... to make sure they respect rules from public health and influence people around them too.”

Dr. Richard Masse of the province's public heath department told reporters Monday: “Right now, the majority of cases we have are young people between 15 and 34 years old.”

He shared statistics from the past week indicating that between July 8-14, positive COVID cases in people aged 20 to 29 years old went up 128 per cent compared with the previous week. For the rest of the age groups during the same time period, the increase observed was 40 per cent.

Guilbault said even if most young people are less likely to suffer seriously from the disease, “they can be vectors of transmission to more vulnerable people, such as their parents or grandparents.”

The minister also said she was shocked to see images of anti-mask protests in Montreal and Quebec City over the weekend, during which protesters accosted a journalist and failed to follow health directives such as physical distancing.

She said people have the right to demonstrate against the government, but not to put the lives of others at risk. Guilbault said the state is studying ways to crackdown on protesters who violate public health directives.

Health officials reported 145 additional cases of COVID-19 since Sunday, bringing the total to 58,728. There were no new deaths reported.

Quebec has had a total of 5,667 COVID-19-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. There are 200 people in hospital with the disease, including seven in intensive care.

The province is planning on permitting indoor and outdoor public gatherings of up to 250 people beginning Aug. 3, but maintaining the 10-person limit in private gatherings, such as in homes and chalets.

Masse said the data suggests COVID-19 transmission is not occurring in most public places. “It happens within families, within groups, in sports, areas where you don't have any social distancing.”

Meanwhile, Quebecers using public transit can now be denied service for not wearing a face covering as a two-week grace period came to an end Monday. But some transit agencies in the Montreal area said they'll continue to count on awareness campaigns and handing out masks to ensure compliance.

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, Quebec has made masks mandatory since July 13 for anyone riding on public transit, except for those who can't wear one for health reasons. Quebec has also made masks mandatory in indoor public places since July 18.

Health Minister Christian Dube said Monday that with few exceptions, most people have been wearing masks and the province has been conducting 100 inspections per day.

At the moment, it's business owners who face fines of between $400 and $6,000 if those rules aren't followed. “But if we felt that we need to move towards individual fines, we won't hesitate to do so,” Dube said.

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