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People line up at a COVID-19 testing clinic, in Montreal, on March 24, 2021.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Quebec reported 1,252 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, hours before five regional municipalities south of Quebec City were scheduled to enter lockdown.

Health officials reported four more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including one within the previous 24 hours. They said hospitalizations rose by one, to 502, and 123 people were in intensive care, a drop of five.

The latest towns set to enter lockdown are in the Chaudiere-Appalaches region, which reported 104 new infections Monday. The government health order is to take effect at 8 p.m. Monday and last at least one week.

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Non-essential businesses and restaurant dining areas are ordered to close, schools will move to virtual learning, and the overnight curfew will start at 8 p.m. instead of 9:30 in Beauce-Sartigan, Bellechasse, Les Etchemins, Nouvelle-Beauce and Robert-Cliche.

Those five areas join three cities placed under a lockdown last week: Quebec City, Levis and Gatineau.

The Montreal region has so far escaped the tighter restrictions, but it remains “under pressure,” Health Minister Christian Dube wrote on Twitter Monday, adding: “The situation in our hospitals is concerning, hospital capacity in intensive care is fragile.”

The province says it administered 22,494 doses of vaccine Sunday, for a total of 1,552,215; officials say 18.3 per cent of the population has received at least one dose. More than 75 per cent of Quebecers over 65 have received a dose of COVID-19 or have an appointment to get their first shot, Dube said on Twitter.

Quebecers in several regions outside of Montreal will be able to register for COVID-19 vaccine appointments in pharmacies starting Tuesday.

The vaccine rollout is expanding to pharmacies in the Montreal suburb of Laval and the nearby Lanaudiere, Laurentides and Monteregie regions.

The Association quebecoise des pharmaciens proprietaires, an organization that represents pharmacists, said 550 pharmacies have received about 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine to be administered at each location. Another 350 pharmacies in Montreal began vaccinating people on March 22.

Quebec has reported a total of 317,364 COVID-19 COVID-19 cases and 10,697 deaths linked to the virus; it has 10,271 active reported infections.

Health columnist André Picard answers reader questions about COVID-19 variants, how effective the various vaccines are and the impact of on-again, off-again lockdowns.

The Globe and Mail

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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