Quebec is implementing more measures to stem the tide of COVID-19 as the pandemic’s fourth wave sets in, the province’s premier announced Tuesday.
Premier François Legault says masks will be mandatory in classrooms in universities and CEGEPs, the province’s junior colleges, as students head back to class amid rising case and hospitalization numbers.
The government is also consulting with public health authorities about tightening the mask mandate in elementary and high schools in the coming days, he added.
“Even if it’s warm, even if it’s summer, the situation is worrying and we have to take measures,” Premier Legault told reporters in Quebec City.
The vaccination campaign is working well, Legault said, but there are concerns about the spread of the Delta variant as the upcoming school year looms and the cold weather returns. At least 85 percent of people who are 12 and older have received a first shot in the province.
“But, despite that, we’re seeing a fourth wave and Quebec will not be spared,” Premier Legault said.
Quebec is also mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers who are in contact with patients as the province deals with a resurgence in virus indicators.
The rule will apply to any healthcare worker who enters into contact with patients for more than 15 minutes at a time, including nurses and doctors. But Legault did not say when the new health order will enter into force.
Premier Legault said 90 percent of healthcare workers are vaccinated, but the remaining 10 percent pose a risk to patients. He stressed the step is necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19.
He added his government will hold a debate in the legislature next week regarding the vaccine mandate for health workers but also on the possibility of requiring vaccination for other public sector employees.
“As for teachers and other public-sector workers, it’s not our intention to make the vaccine mandatory,” Premier Legault said.
Vaccination blitz in coming weeks
Quebec is hoping to carry out a “vaccination blitz” over the next two weeks as schools reopen and the province’s vaccine passport system to access some non-essential services comes into effect.
The goal is to get as many eligible adults and teens as possible to roll up their sleeves if they haven’t done so already. Those who do have their booster shot booked should also bump it up if they can, Premier Legault said.
“I’m calling on all Quebecers,” he said. “Please, book an appointment.”
The premier said the COVID-19 vaccine is effective in reducing the risks associated with the disease and transmitting it to others.
For those who are worried, Legault stressed the risk of the novel coronavirus “far exceeds” the risks associated with the vaccine.
“The situation is worrying,” he said. “But we do know that vaccines work very well in preventing people from getting COVID and in keeping people out of hospitals.”
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