The COVID-19 variants is the main reason that Abitibi-Temiscamingue has remained in an orange zone while some other regions of Quebec are able to move to a yellow zone.

The update from Premier Francois Legault earlier this week had some people in Kebaowek and surrounding areas understandably upset with the news.

“It might be a little too early to make that shift and one of the reasons why that was cited was that over the last little bit with the holidays we’ve had probably the most cases of variant per 100 thousand inhabitants in the province of Quebec,” said Kebaowek Health Director, David McLaren.

“So that means we’ve had at least 100 cases of the South African variant in our region.”

The South African variant is a lot more transmissible, he says, this form of COVID-19 forced public health to treat all cases a lot more seriously.

“We’re hopeful, the weather’s getting beautiful… and we’re not having the opportunity to do the things we used to do in the yellow zone so it is tough,” said McLaren.

However, vaccinations are ramping up and the effort people have been putting in to stay safe, he believes we’re heading in the right direction to move into a yellow zone.

It was announced on Wednesday that people over the age of 65 can now schedule an appointment for the vaccine.

“That’s the age bracket that Premier Legault has been talking about… and saying hey look, once we get 65 and up vaccinated it’s going to be a lot better because they represent 80 per cent of the people hospitalized,” McLaren said.

McLaren also said that in the coming weeks Kebaowek will be able to do their own COVID-19 tests and it will be announced as soon as the testing is available. However, he says it’s very important that people who think they need to have a test do not just show up at the health centre and ask for a test.

“What is important is that you call first and we will give you instructions on how we’re going to proceed,” he said.

Click here to listen to the interview.