A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Dec. 24, 2021. Some provinces released updates regarding COVID-19 hospitalizations on Monday, which highlighted an increase in case numbers driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Dec. 24, 2021. Some provinces released updates regarding COVID-19 hospitalizations on Monday, which highlighted an increase in case numbers driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

COVID-19’s Omicron surge prompts concerns over hospitalizations in some provinces

Real number of cases is likely far higher

Some provinces released updates regarding COVID-19 hospitalizations on Monday, which highlighted an increase in case numbers driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.

Quebec’s health minister urged people to reduce contacts after the province saw hospitalizations climb by more than 140 over a four-day period.

Christian Dubé said on Twitter that 320 people were admitted to hospital while 179 were released between Dec. 22 and 26. He noted that admissions are rising, with 93 people entering hospital on Boxing Day alone.

“We must limit contacts,” he said on the social media site.

Ontario reported 9,418 new cases of COVID-19, which was down slightly from the record-breaking numbers on Christmas Day.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 480 people were in hospital because of COVID-19 while ICU numbers rose to 176.

That brings the seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 related patients in intensive care to 168. Elliott added that not all hospitals report numbers on weekends.

Nova Scotia health authorities, meanwhile, reported an outbreak at the Halifax Infirmary site of the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.

They did not give details on how many patients have tested positive but said fewer than five had been “impacted.”

COVID-19 cases have been surging across Canada, driven by the Omicron variant.

Quebec reported 8,231 cases, while Nova Scotia recorded 581.

But as high as they are, health-care analysts have said the real number of cases is likely far higher.

Several provinces have asked people to get tested only if they have symptoms as hospitals and centres have reached their testing limits.

Quebec, meanwhile, has warned that the increasing use of rapid tests is likely to affect the accuracy of the case count.

Manitoba said it would be making take-home, self-administered rapid tests available at provincial testing sites.

Health and Seniors Care Minister Audrey Gordon said in a statement that most symptomatic and fully vaccinated people who go to testing sites will receive a rapid test to take at home, and will only be asked to return for a PCR if the result is positive.

The changes will be “introduced incrementally,” she said.

“Making take-home, self-administered rapid tests available to symptomatic Manitobans who seek a COVID-19 test will help manage the potential demand of tests when the Omicron variant of concern becomes more prominent,” Gordon said.

Manitoba health officials will provide a COVID-19 update later Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2021.

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