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People walk by a sign outside a restaurant advising customers of the Quebec government’s newly implemented COVID-19 vaccine passport in Montreal on Sept. 6, 2021. Quebec’s public health institute said recently there were 414 active outbreaks in the province, 52 of which were in primary schools or preschools and 69 were in daycares.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

The number of COVID-19 cases is rising in Quebec schools since they reopened following the summer break – but that’s to be expected, according to a pediatric health expert.

The rise in cases among children is predictable given the increasing transmission of the Delta variant in the general population and the fact children under 12 can’t yet be vaccinated, Dr. Jesse Papenburg, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, said Monday.

But Papenburg said there’s no evidence the Delta variant is any more likely to cause severe illness in children than the original strain of the virus.

It’s a “very, very transmissible virus, we’re going to see more cases,” he said in an interview. “But, luckily, the risk of severe illness remains low and we’ve not yet observed a substantial increase in hospitalizations (among children).”

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While there has been a rise in pediatric COVID-19 patients in parts of the United States, Papenburg said that is occurring in places where vaccination rates remain low. He said those low rates have led to much higher transmission among all segments of the population, including children.

Papenburg said higher vaccination rates in Quebec should help protect those who are too young to be vaccinated. “I’m hoping that our vaccination rate in Quebec is going to actually prevent that,” he said.

Quebec’s public health institute said Monday there were 414 active outbreaks in the province, 52 of which were in primary schools or preschools and 69 were in daycares. On Friday, the Health Department said there were 657 schools in Quebec with active cases of COVID-19, an increase of 66 from Thursday.

Health officials reported 639 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and one additional death linked to the disease. The Health Department said the number of hospitalizations rose by 14, to 227, and 75 people were in intensive care, unchanged from the day before.

Authorities said 13,034 doses of vaccine were administered Sunday. According to Quebec’s public health institute, 88.3 per cent of residents 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine and 83.3 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated.

Laval, Montreal’s large northern suburb, remains the most affected region in the province, with 190.6 active cases per 100,000 people, followed by neighbouring Lanaudiere, with 113 active cases per 100,000 people. Across the province, there are 73.3 active cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people.

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