quebec covid 19

This is why COVID-19 cases are so much higher in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada

As of April 30, every province and territory in Canada is now grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, though some are faring much better than others.

Given that Ontario and Quebec are the most populous provinces in the country, it makes sense that they would be the forerunners for case counts. But Quebec, which has around six million fewer residents than Ontario based on current population estimates, is reporting nearly double the number of cases as its neighbour to the west.

Ontario has confirmed 17,553 cases of the virus according to its most recent data, while Quebec has had 31,865 of Canada's 59,844, making for triple the number of cases per capita (0.0037 versus 0.0012).

The province also has seen 2,205 deaths related to the novel coronavirus — nearly two thirds of Canada's total — compared with Ontario's 1,300.

With these numbers in mind, many Canadians are wondering why Quebec Premier François Legault is moving forward with the re-opening of retail stores in most of the province today, and schools within the week.

Many are wary of Legault's endorsement of a "herd immunity" approach, wherein those who are less at-risk (such as children) are gradually exposed to the virus through everyday life, leading to a greater proportion of natural immunity within the population, which acts as a roadblock to the illness's spread.

There is also the fact that the province yesterday announced 2,209 new cases, a shocking spike caused by a "computer error" that led to 1,317 unaccounted for cases in April. The snafu hasn't given residents the most confidence in how the government is dealing with the outbreak.

Citizens across the country are also wondering how Quebec's COVID-19 situation has gotten so much worse than elsewhere in Canada.

Every province is predicting a different time for when their cases might peak, based on various factors — for Quebec, one of them being the fact that spring break took place earlier there than in other locales, which meant more people embarking on international travel as the pandemic was still in its earlier stages.

Quebec's schools were let out on March 1, with students returning to classrooms on March 9, while in Ontario, schools did not resume after March Break, which started on March 15 — after the World Health Organization declared the health crisis a global pandemic, meaning fewer families traveling, and students not returning to classrooms afterward even if they did.

Some experts are also saying that living conditions and language barriers in some parts of Montreal — which has half of the province's cases — are considerations. Many different languages are spoken in certain neighbourhoods, making it hard for social distancing and other measures to be communicated. 

"It is more difficult for people who live in a small apartment to be able to respect — even if they wanted to — what is asked of them," Julie Provencher, a director of youth and public health services at a Montreal public health board, told the CBC on May 3. She added that there are a lot of healthcare workers living in some of the areas that have seen recent spikes.

There are also the province's strong travel ties to places like France, Florida and New York City, which were all hotspots for the virus quite early on. And, testing in the province has also ramped up substantially in recent weeks, which naturally leads to spikes in numbers.

We'll all have to wait and see how Quebec's first phases of re-opening go in light of their current virus stats — and hopefully learn from them.

Lead photo by

Andrew Welch/Unsplash

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