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Quebecers are urged to avoid crowded emergency rooms if possible and watch out for gatherings this holiday weekend as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on hospital workforces.

Health authorities in Montreal and the surrounding regions of Montérégie and Laval have all posted messages on their social media accounts asking people to see a pharmacist or call the province’s 811 medical hotline for problems. minors instead of going to the hospital.

Quebec’s health minister said hospitals are grappling with the dual challenge of COVID-19 and the flu at a time when some 13,000 healthcare workers are off work for virus-related reasons.

On Friday, the Outaouais Health Authority in western Quebec announced it was suspending hospital visits until further notice, while the regions of Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Chaudière- Appalachia recently announced early closings or service reductions at one or more of their locations.

Meanwhile, health authorities in several regions have issued messages urging people to be careful at Easter gatherings, especially if they will be surrounded by vulnerable people.

They ask people to keep gatherings small, open windows for ventilation, and stay home if they feel they have symptoms of COVID-19 such as fatigue or a scratchy throat.