Canada's Ontario to keep schools closed longer as COVID-19 cases among children rise

Moira Warburton
·2 min read
Mourners attend a memorial for the victims of a Ukrainian passenger plane which was shot down in Iran

By Moira Warburton

TORONTO (Reuters) -The Canadian province of Ontario will keep elementary schools in its southern regions closed for in-person learning until Jan. 25, the provincial government announced on Thursday.

The decision comes as the test positivity rate for COVID-19 - or the proportion of tests that come back as positive - for children under the age of 13 in the province reaches 20%, Premier Doug Ford said earlier on Thursday.

Elementary schools had been scheduled to reopen for in-person classes on Jan. 11, and most secondary schools were due back on Jan. 25. Schools in northern Ontario will reopen for in-person learning on Jan. 11.

Online learning for all students started last Monday.

"One in every five children under the age of 13, they're testing positive. That's not mentioning all the other kids that haven't been tested that might have a runny nose or a cough," Ford told reporters.

"I will never ever put our kids in jeopardy," he added.

The province reported 3,519 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, a record one-day spike. As of Wednesday, Canada had reported 626,799 total cases and 16,369 deaths, up 136 from the previous day.

British Columbia announced on Thursday that it was extending a ban on all social gatherings - except weddings and funerals, which can include 10 people - until Feb. 5. The province of 5 million on Canada's west coast reported 761 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the province's schools would reopen for in-person learning as planned on Monday, despite reporting 968 new cases on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Quebec announced an 8 p.m. curfew beginning on Saturday in an attempt to limit the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the province, but in-person learning in primary schools would restart on Monday as planned.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Sonya Hepinstall and Sam Holmes)