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An average of 200 patients with COVID-19 are expected to be admitted every day to Quebec hospitals within two weeks’ time, according to projections released Wednesday by a government health-care research institute as health authorities confirmed the province has entered a sixth wave.

The number of people needing intensive care, however, should rise over the same period but is not expected to put significant pressure on the health system, the Institut national d’excellence en sante et en services sociaux said in its latest report.

Many patients with COVID-19 are hospitalized for other reasons, the institute said: “This proportion could represent a little more than half of the regular beds and about a third of intensive care beds.”

The week ending March 25 represented the first time since the peak of the Omicron wave in mid-January that COVID-19 hospitalizations rose in the province.

The latest forecasts come as a separate health institute confirmed Wednesday that Quebec is indeed into a sixth wave of COVID-19 as some experts had previously predicted.

The Institut national de sante publique du Quebec informed public health officials, who are monitoring the situation and don’t anticipate any further measures, the Health Department said through its Twitter account.

The Omicron subvariant BA.2 has been increasingly dominant, accounting for up to two-thirds of positive cases in the province. The institute said while it is more transmissible, BA.2′s virulence and resistance to vaccines are similar to Omicron.

Quebec Premier François Legault said earlier this week that a “moderate increase in cases and hospitalizations” was expected over the next two weeks, but he said no new public health orders were expected. The last major restriction in force – the provincewide mask mandate – is still scheduled to be lifted by mid-April.

Legault is one of a handful of senior members of the government who have tested positive for COVID-19 since last week. On Wednesday, deputy premier Geneviève Guilbault announced she had tested positive for COVID-19. Nine members of the legislature have tested positive since, including seven-member of the governing party, the Coalition Avenir Québec.

Meanwhile, Quebec reported eight more deaths attributed to COVID-19 Wednesday and a rise of 47 patients in hospital with the disease. The Health Department said there were 1,200 people hospitalized with COVID-19 after 148 patients were admitted in the past 24 hours and 101 were discharged. There were 60 patients listed in intensive care, a drop of three.

Health officials reported 3,067 new cases confirmed by PCR testing, and just over 17 per cent of tests conducted came back positive.

They said 8,849 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered on Tuesday. Fifty-three per cent of Quebeckers five and older have received a third dose of vaccine, and the province has begun a fourth-dose booster campaign for certain high-risk groups, such as people 80 and older.

The government also announced Wednesday that certain pandemic-related bonuses for health-care staff will be extended by one month, until mid-May, because of the rising number of infections and hospitalizations linked to the disease. The province has paid out more than $5.3-billion in bonuses and other financial measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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