January 5, 2022 – Updates by the federal and provincial governments on the COVID-19 pandemic
The following is an update on recent decisions and actions by the federal and provincial governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
3.6 million rapid tests in Québec schools
Jean-François Roberge, Minister of Education, and Horacio Arruda, National Director of Public Health in Québec, provided an update on the start of the school year and on online learning.
On January 17, a total of 3.6 million rapid tests will be distributed to primary and secondary school students in Québec. Each student will receive one box of five tests. This delivery will be repeated in February, for a total of 7.2 million rapid tests distributed in two months.
The Education Minister reiterated the importance of students not attending school if they have symptoms of COVID-19 and, if necessary, performing a rapid test at home. For students whose symptoms appear during the school day, it will be possible to perform a rapid test on site.
School personnel to be given priority for PCR testing
Starting January 15, all school staff will be able to undergo PCR testing at screening centres, because they will be considered essential workers.
Mr. Roberge noted that surgical masks must be worn at all times: on school buses, in common areas and in class. He also announced that students and school personnel will no longer be limited to two masks per day and that they will be able to change their masks whenever they wish, since their effectiveness decreases when they are damp.
For the time being, Public Health is not recommending the use of N95 masks in schools.
Exceptions for adult online learning
Individuals taking vocational or general adult education courses will be able to attend labs, workshops or evaluations that require practical work on site.
Other teaching arrangements
Mr. Roberge recalled that the regular schedule must be followed for online high school learning. As for preschools and elementary schools, the minimum educational curriculum must continue to be followed.
“In the so-called balance of inconveniences, keeping all schools closed, with the problems that entails, is more damaging than moving towards re-opening,” Mr. Roberge said. “Online learning is a good Plan B. Our Plan A is for students to return to school.”
Services for children with special needs are also being provided.
The Minister says that LTE keys can be provided to students who do not have access to an Internet connection so that they can connect from home.
The departmental examinations scheduled for this month will be held during the weeks of January 24 and 31. The Ministry of Education’s schedule will be made public shortly. In addition, the first report card will be distributed on February 11.
The government reiterated that priority for daycare services is being given to the children of essential workers, including healthcare personnel and teachers. Exceptions will be made in emergency situations.
However, the government recommends that parents keep their children at home if possible.
More than 50,000 air-quality monitors will be delivered to Québec schools by January 7, which represents 54% of the monitors previously ordered. Public Health’s goal is to have everything delivered for the January 17 return to class. Another 40,000 monitors will be added to this total during January and February.
Over 400 air exchangers have also been distributed to schools that have requested them.
Reduced isolation period
Public Health announced that fully vaccinated Quebecers with COVID-19 will be required to self-isolate for five days instead of the current 10. This measure applies only to asymptomatic people or those whose symptoms have subsided. They must also have been free of fever for 24 hours. In the five days following the isolation period, the infected person must wear a mask and maintain a distance of two metres from others.
The length of isolation for healthcare workers is maintained at seven days, except for those who are not in contact with patients.
No more PCR tests offered to all
Due to the impending possibility of a shortage, PCR testing will be reserved for certain groups only.
- Hospitalized people;
- Healthcare workers in contact with patients;
- Hospital and group home staff, residents, essential-care providers and visitors;
- Homeless people;
- People from First Nations communities and those travelling to these communities for work;
- Contacts in a setting of a confirmed or suspected outbreak in a high-risk environment, such as hospitals or slaughterhouses;
- School personnel, beginning January 15, 2022.
Tightening of measures in CHSLDs, IRs and FTRs
Only caregivers will be allowed entry to long-term-care centres (CHSLDs), private centres for seniors, and intermediate- and family-type resources (IR-FTRs).
Only one caregiver per day will be allowed in CHSLDs and IRs.
Only one caregiver at a time, and a maximum of two per day, will be permitted in FTRs.
In order to restrict the number of different people who can care for residents, these facilities must ask residents to identify a maximum of four caregivers.
It is important to remember that in all these facilities, all caregivers must present their vaccination passport when visiting a loved one.
140 million rapid tests in Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos provided an update on the status of COVID-19 in Canada.
Mr. Duclos said that Canada had delivered 85 million rapid tests to the provinces and territories prior to December 2021. Another 35 million rapid tests were distributed in December and a further 140 million will be sent in January.
Deliveries will be based on the proportion of the population in each province and territory.
Québec’s share is 31.5 million tests.
Vaccination of 5-11-year-olds
To date, more than 40% of children aged 5-11 in Canada have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Canada will have enough vaccine in January to immunize this entire age group with two doses.
The federal government noted that 200 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have arrived in Québec in the last few days to provide logistical support to the vaccination team.