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

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

The situation in some Quebec hospitals has become so critical that authorities have begun installing beds in “non-traditional locations” such as a Quebec City hotel, Health Minister Christian Dubé said Friday.

He also warned that more non-essential surgeries and other medical procedures could be suspended across the province if COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb.

Mr. Dubé named 10 hospitals in Quebec he said were in critical condition.

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“The situation is critical in some hospitals,” Mr. Dubé told reporters during a virtual news conference. “We’ve had to prepare beds for COVID patients in what we call, non-traditional locations, because we lack beds in hospitals.

“In Quebec City, we installed beds at Hotel Le Concorde,” he said, “we are even going to be forced to use the reception rooms.”

The number of COVID-19 patients in Quebec hospitals has risen 50 per cent in the past three weeks, for a total of 1,011. The number of patients in intensive care rose by seven to 141 on Friday.

Mr. Dubé asked Quebeckers to avoid partying during the holidays to help the health care system survive the month of January. “I’ve heard that the orders at the SAQ (Quebec’s liquor commission) are very strong right now – that’s not a good sign.” He asked people to save those bottles for a later date.

A government-funded health institute said Friday that despite the surge in hospitalizations, the province should not exceed its dedicated hospital capacity for COVID-19 cases over the next four weeks. Mr. Dubé said his department has dedicated 2,164 beds across the province for coronavirus patients.

But the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux said it cannot rule out that the number of COVID-19 patients won’t exceed dedicated capacity in less-populated regions. The institute said two-thirds of the dedicated beds in outlying regions are occupied.

Quebec reported 1,773 new COVID-19 cases Friday and 36 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, five of which occurred in the past 24 hours. The province also reported 1,866 more recoveries for a total 147,398 since the beginning of the pandemic. Quebec has had a total of 172,801 cases and 7,671 deaths linked to the virus.

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Health authorities said they inoculated another 896 people, for a total of 3,305 since the province’s vaccination campaign began on Monday at two locations, one in Montreal and another in Quebec City.

Starting next week, 21 additional sites will be opened to vaccinate long-term care patients and staff, Mr. Dubé said, adding that the province’s goal is to administer some 50,000 doses between Dec. 21 and Jan. 4.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s director of public health, said the vaccine protects people who receive it, but he said it’s still unclear whether it stops transmission of the novel coronavirus. “We will keep the same principle: protect the ones at higher risk and the ones who are working in essential services,” he said.

Schools were forced to close Thursday and won’t reopen until at least Jan. 11, while the province has ordered anyone who can work from home to do so. All businesses the government deems “non-essential” will be forced to close starting Dec. 25 and until at least Jan. 11.

The initial COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada and around the world raise questions about how people react to the shot, how pregnant women should approach it and how far away herd immunity may be. Globe health reporter Kelly Grant and science reporter Ivan Semeniuk discuss the answers. The Globe and Mail

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

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