Laval restaurant closes after at least 30 infected in outbreak; first tests show Omicron

A Laval restaurant is voluntarily closing for at least a week after a staff member and about 30 other people caught COVID-19 during the holiday season.

At least one of the infections linked to the Boating Club restaurant on the city’s north shore is presumed to be Omicron, said Laval public health spokeswoman Marie-Eve Despatie-Gagnon.

The popular restaurant is not believed to have breached any public health rules, she said – it was just a case of “bad luck” and the highly transmissible new virus.

“We have an excellent collaboration with the Boating Club,” said Despatie-Gagnon.

The restaurant decided on its own to close, rather than being shut down by public health, she said. In an announcement on his Facebook page on Thursday afternoon, the restaurant owner said he made the decision after obtaining test results from health authorities.

“We regret to inform you that Laval Public Health has just informed us that a case of Omicron has been detected in our bar-restaurant,” reads the restaurant’s announcement.

“We have decided as a precaution to close the restaurant and the bar for the week”, he added, specifying that it could reopen just before Christmas but “definitely on December 28”.

Apologizing to customers who had booked at that time, he said “stay safe and see you soon!”

Radio-Canada first reported news of the outbreak, which it said was linked to a single office party, infecting 31 of the 32 attendees.

“There were Christmas parties,” Despatie-Gagnon said, and there were around 30 to 32 resulting infections, but she couldn’t confirm they all came from a single party.

Testing is still ongoing – only one employee has been confirmed infected, but the rest of the staff are currently being tested.

Similarly, only one test sample has been tentatively confirmed as Omicron after genetic screening, but Laval Public Health is awaiting full DNA testing from the Institut de santé publique du Québec to declare that it is definitely the new variant.

Pre-screening results, however, are foolproof enough for public health authorities to act as if they were positive, aggressively tracing and managing outbreaks in an effort to delay the spread of Omicron. That’s what’s happening now with this outbreak, given the single suspected case, Despatie-Gagnon said.

Laval is tied with Montreal as the third highest COVID-19 rate in Quebec, with 259 active cases per 100,000 people, or about one in 400 people currently infected.

Both are among the 10 hardest hit public health units in Canada right now, according to daily charts kept by an Ontario statistician.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault made an urgent announcement late Thursday, saying more than 3,700 new cases will be announced on Friday and a series of public health measures will be tightened starting Monday.

Joshua B. Speller