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Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube at a news conference on Sept. 11, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Quebec reported 279 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the total to 64,986 cases since the pandemic began.

The province said one additional death attributed to the novel coronavirus was also recorded in the previous 24 hours.

The total number of deaths in Quebec since the start of the pandemic remains at 5,780, however, because health officials said they mistakenly attributed a previous death to the virus.

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Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said in a tweet that increases in COVID-19 cases have been reported across the province, describing the situation as “under control, yet concerning.”

The latest COVID-19 numbers came as Gatineau Hospital in the province’s Outaouais region had its first full day without intensive care services amid a staffing shortage.

The regional health agency said Saturday that the facility’s intensive care unit would be temporarily closed as of midnight Sunday.

For now, patients requiring intensive care treatments will be transferred to other hospitals in the area. In a statement, the agency said it would do all it could to reopen the intensive care unit “in the next days.”

Patrick Guay, president of the union representing Outaouais health-care workers, said the suspension reflects widespread problems that have plagued the region over the past few months – and therefore did not come as a surprise.

He said the intensive care unit at Gatineau Hospital only has two nurses at a time to take care of four patients.

“If one leaves to go eat, that means it falls on one nurse for four patients. It’s unthinkable and unsafe,” Guay said in an interview.

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He said he believed more hospital units would be forced to close in the coming weeks amid a lack of personnel in the region. “In some places, I have 60 to 70 per cent of posts that are vacant,” Guay said.

Quebec health authorities said Sunday that 124 people were hospitalized across the province due to COVID-19 – one fewer than the previous day.

Of those, 19 people were in intensive care – an increase of three from Saturday.

Quebec said it conducted 21,132 COVID-19 tests on Sept. 11, the last date for which the testing data was available.

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