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Quebec has likely passed the peak of the pandemic’s sixth wave, Quebec’s interim public health director said Wednesday, adding that his final recommendation on lifting the province’s mask mandate wouldn’t come until next week.

Dr. Luc Boileau told reporters that while he expects to give the go-ahead for the government to lift the masking order May 14, the situation is not improving rapidly enough for him to make the recommendation now.

“The sixth wave is being controlled and we believe that in all probability the peak is behind us,” Boileau said in Quebec City. However, he said the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and new daily infections remain elevated and aren’t decreasing as fast as they did following the peak of previous waves.

“People have to remain aware that we are in a pandemic period, that there is a lot of contagion every day, there are a lot people who are being infected every day,” he said. “So we are very confident for (May 14), but I think it might be better to watch how the next few days go to assure ourselves of that.”

When the masking order is lifted for public places, it will still remain for public transit, hospitals and long-term care facilities. Boileau said masking will still be recommended for many people, including those who have COVID-19 symptoms.

“We expect that there will still be many who wear it and with good reason,” he said. “There are people who are more vulnerable, who are older, or who have diseases, who are immunosuppressed They’re going to want to keep that protection.”

Quebec will be the only province to require masking in most indoor public places when Prince Edward Island lifts its mask order on May 6.

Dr. Jean Longtin, a medical microbiologist who advises the Health Department, said Quebec is seeing a rising number of COVID-19 reinfections. The BA.2 variant, which accounts for the majority of cases in the province, is different enough from other strains of the virus that it can cause people to contract the disease in as little as two months after an initial infection.

“After two months we start to see some reinfection, even though most people will not be reinfected,” Longtin told reporters. “We estimate about five to 10 per cent of the current infections are actually reinfections.”

Earlier Thursday, Quebec reported 23 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus and a 46-patient decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations. The Health Department said 2,326 patients were in hospital with the disease, including 85 people in intensive care.

Health officials reported 1,768 new COVID-19 cases from PCR testing, which is limited to high-risk groups, and they said 12.2 per cent of tests conducted Wednesday came back positive.

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