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Quebec reported a record 9,397 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, as Montreal public health officials said contact tracers could no longer keep up with the surging number of daily infections.

Montreal public health director Dr. Mylene Drouin told reporters that 90 per cent of new COVID-19 cases in the city involve the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus and that one in five Montrealers getting tested is positive.

Drouin said there were more than 3,600 cases identified in the city on Wednesday, adding that the number is likely an underestimation given that testing sites are overwhelmed and results of take-home rapid tests aren’t being recorded. About sixty per cent of new infections in Montreal involve people between the ages of 18 and 44, she added.

“The message is we are having an intense community transmission in Montreal,” Drouin said. “It’s exponential — it’s touching young adults.”

“Everyone has someone in their entourage who is infected with COVID right now so we all have to be really vigilant to protect the vulnerable.”

Quebec’s Health Department on Thursday also reported six more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. COVID-19-related hospitalizations rose by 28, to 473, and 91 people were in intensive care, a rise of three.

While the Quebec government maintained holiday gatherings at a maximum of 10 people, it will limit private gatherings to a maximum of six people or to two-family bubbles as of Boxing Day. Restaurants, which are already operating at half capacity, will also have to limit groups at tables to six people or two families.

In Montreal, 181 people are hospitalized with the disease, a rise of 60 per cent since last week. Officials said they are postponing some non-essential services and reorganizing personnel to increase the number of COVID-19-dedicated beds to 550.

Drouin said Montreal public health officials are no longer capable of contact tracing all the new cases reported every day because the numbers are overwhelming. She asked people who receive a positive test result — whether at a testing centre or through a take-home rapid test kit — to isolate for ten days and to call the people they had recently come into contact with.

“What we’re asking is you call your close contacts and ask them to isolate themselves for 10 days,” Drouin said.

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