Photo Credit: Coast Reporter

By Virginie Ann
The Canadian Press

Montreal: Sunday shoppers streamed back into Quebec stores for the first time in three weeks as a measure meant to curb soaring COVID-19-related hospitalization rates in the province came to an end amid declining patient numbers.

The positive signs were not confined to the province either, as virus-related admissions either decreased or held steady in other jurisdictions such as Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Ontario reported a drop of 229 patients in hospitals with COVID-19, though officials noted that not all health-care facilities share data on weekends.

Quebec, meanwhile, said 12 fewer patients were hospitalized Sunday. The two long-standing virus hotspots, however, still had more than 7,000 hospitalizations between them as of Sunday.

The numbers came as most Quebec stores reopened their doors following a three-week ban on Sunday shopping imposed by the government in a bid to curb hospitalization rates that soared once the pandemic’s Omicron-driven wave took hold. The province closed non-essential businesses for three Sundays starting Jan. 2, making exceptions only for pharmacies, convenience stores and gas stations.

The move one of a suite of measures implemented to bring hospitalizations under control  appeared to be bearing fruit, as the number of patients in provincial facilities has declined for four days in a row.

Christophe Fiore, the co-owner of grocery store Fruiterie Roger in Montreal, shared mixed feelings about reopening on Sundays.

He said that while the provincial restriction helped to address a staffing shortage, it also produced a counter-effect by forcing more customers to do their shopping on Saturdays and Mondays.

“It’s not a good solution when it comes to COVID,” Fiore said. “It was not pleasant, Saturdays and Mondays became extremely busy and the rest of the week was quiet.”

Fiore said reopening on Sundays is helping restore balance.

“We are already seeing it, yesterday and today were quieter,” he said.