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People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Montreal.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

There were zero new or active cases of COVID-19 in Quebec’s long-term care homes on Tuesday, as the province surpassed the million mark of second doses given.

Thousands of people died in long-term care facilities during the pandemic’s first and second waves, with dozens of homes at a time reporting major outbreaks.

As of June 13, the CHSLD Aime-Leduc, southwest of Montreal, was the only establishment reporting an active case, but that institution was removed from the latest list of infected care homes published Tuesday.

Dr. Jasmin Villeneuve, a medical adviser with the province’s health institute, credited the fact that 95 per cent of residents have received a first vaccine dose and 84 per cent are fully vaccinated.

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Villeneuve said health workers also have a better understanding of the virus now, and fewer people are bringing COVID-19 into the homes due to lower transmission rates overall.

“The knowledge we gained, it helps us a lot to protect ourselves,” Villeneuve said.

Health Minister Christian Dube highlighted the number at a news conference, noting that it was one of the first days without a single case or death in the care homes.

“If we put it in perspective from a year ago, it’s quite an improvement,” he said.

The number of infections in the province continued to decline, with 105 new cases in the previous 24-hour reporting period and six additional deaths.

Hospitalizations declined by five to 209, while the number of people in intensive care fell by four to 50.

The province reported having administered just under 87,000 doses in the last 24 hour period, and said early Tuesday afternoon that it had crossed the one million mark for second doses.

As of late Tuesday morning 78 per cent of Quebecers 12 and over had received a first dose, and 14 per cent a second.

But Dube warned Tuesday that some age groups were dragging their feet, with about a third of eligible Quebecers between the ages of 18 and 39 yet to receive a first dose or make an appointment.

He said it’s key for that age group, which tends to have a high number of contacts, to get vaccinated to prevent a possible fourth wave of cases in the fall.

With only about 30 per cent of the global population vaccinated and contagious variants circulating, “we need to be conscious that there will be pressure to potentially have a fourth wave,” Dube said.

“What we do control is how we are vaccinated. The more we are vaccinated, the more we will be able to face whatever will happen.”

Dube announced that people who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccines for their first shots will now be able to move up their appointments for second doses on the provincial portal when their age group becomes eligible.

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine recipients have already started to become eligible, in descending order of age, to rebook second dose appointments for as little as eight weeks after the first.

Dube said that people who received AstraZeneca for their first shot will be offered the option of receiving Pfizer or Moderna for their second when they arrive for their appointments.

He said Quebecers who have yet to receive a vaccine proof by e-mail will be able to download it themselves from the province’s website.

The proof, which is currently delivered in QR code form, will likely become part of a vaccine passport system that is being negotiated with the federal government, Dube said.

That passport could eventually allow fully vaccinated Canadians to skip quarantine requirements when they return to the country from abroad – something Dube called a “key advantage” of vaccination.

The province’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said the province is carefully tracking new cases of the Delta variant, which is believed to be the most infectious of those identified so far.

He said that so far, the number of cases in the province isn’t rising as quickly as elsewhere, but the province was still taking an aggressive approach to contact tracing and isolating any suspected cases.

As the number of new COVID-19 cases drops, the Quebec government announced it will lower the COVID-19 alert level in three regions next week.

As of Monday, the Bas-Saint-Laurent, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Mauricie and Centre-du-Quebec regions will shift from yellow to green on the province’s pandemic alert system.

The move means that up to 10 people or three residences can gather indoors, among other changes.

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