Canadian army rolls in Quebec to hasten COVID-19 vaccination

Quebec reported 15,293 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and 15 more deaths linked to the virus, as Canada’s public safety minister announced members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be mobilized to speed up the province’s vaccination efforts.

Bill Blair made the announcement on Twitter Monday morning, saying the decision followed a request for aid from the province.

“Following our approval of Quebec’s request for federal assistance, Canadian Armed Forces personnel will begin their deployment today to provide support to the province’s vaccination campaign,” he said.

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The Defence Department said in a statement that up to 200 personnel are being deployed at vaccination centres in Montreal.

“For the moment, it’s just in the region of Montreal that the forces are being deployed,” said Daniel Minden, a spokesperson for Defence Minister Anita Anand.

The news comes a day before Quebec is set to start expanding eligibility for a COVID-19 booster vaccine to the entire adult population.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Quebec updates curfew exemptions to include dog walking

Getting booster shots into Quebecers’ arms has become a priority as the province grapples with the highly contagious Omicron variant, with hospitalizations and positive case counts skyrocketing over the holidays.

The Health Department said on Monday the number of hospitalizations linked to the virus rose by 165 to 1,396. It said 181 people were in intensive care, an increase of 19, while 47,386 COVID-19 tests were analyzed and 30.2 per cent came back positive.

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Those 18 and over will be able to book appointments to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine throughout January, following a new roll-out by age group.

Meanwhile, Quebec updated its list of curfew exemptions to allow dog walking during hours when residents are otherwise expected to remain indoors.

READ MORE: National civil liberties association condemns Quebec COVID-19 curfew, private gathering ban

The province said that between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., the hours covered by the most recent curfew imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, Quebecers can take their dogs out within a radius of no more than one kilometre from their permanent or temporary residence.

The new exemption, which was updated on Sunday according to a government portal, comes in response to backlash from pet owners denouncing the lack of provisions for dog walking when the curfew first took effect on Dec. 31.

Marie-Claude Lacasse, a spokeswoman with the Health Department, issued a statement saying the ministry had initially forgotten to include the exemption.

This is the second time the province is facing such a measure after a previous curfew introduced in early January 2021 was in effect for more than five months.

Adults found in violation of the new curfew face possible fines of $1,000 to $6,000, while youth 14 years of age and older are liable to a fine of $500.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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