Prince Edward Island extends restrictions and delays reopening schools to Jan. 17.

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CHARLOTTETOWN — The government of Prince Edward Island is extending public health measures, including online learning in schools, until at least Jan. 17.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Heather Morrison says the measures are needed to deal with the increase in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant.

"We cannot stop the Omicron variant among the population and the best we can do is to slow it down," Morrison said at a news conference in Charlottetown Tuesday.

She reported 198 new cases of COVID-19 on the Island Tuesday, increasing the number of active cases to 1,159. Three people are hospitalized including one in intensive care.

Premier Dennis King said public health measures that were expected to end on Jan. 8 would be extended to Jan. 17.

Personal gatherings remain limited to 10 people, while wedding and funeral receptions are not permitted. All organized gatherings including worship services, theatres, wedding and funeral ceremonies and concerts can have a maximum of 50 people with physical distancing. Gyms and retail stores can operate at up to 50 per cent capacity with physical distancing and masks.

"Because we lead the country in vaccinations, because we adhere so closely to health protocols, because we have put in place strict restrictions fast when we've needed to, the results have been so far what we have anticipated and hoped for," King told reporters.

Morrison said the decision to delay in-class learning will be reviewed again next week.

"We know how important in-class learning is. Given the reality of our uncertain situation with COVID-19, we need more time to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on all age groups, including children, and to take steps to ensure a safe return to school," Morrison said.

Education Minister Natalie Jamieson said 175 new HEPA filters have been purchased for 10 schools that rely on open windows and doors for ventilation, and all students, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks when classes resume.

"We will be delivering 30,000 triple-layered cloth masks to schools for students and staff," Jamieson said.

Morrison said it remains important for people to get vaccinated, noting that 45,000 Islanders will become eligible for their booster shots in January. She said mass vaccination clinics will begin next week in Charlottetown and Summerside.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2022.

— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.

The Canadian Press

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