Quebec’s health-care vaccine deadline come and gone – but unvaxxed staffers are still working

·3 min read

The Quebec government backtracked on its own mandate for provincial health-care workers and will relax other rules as COVID-19 cases in the province are on the upswing while hospitalizations are decreasing.

Health Minister Christian Dube said recently that the threatened suspension of health-care workers who have yet to be vaccinated fully against COVID-19 had to be walked back because of the effect the suspension of thousands of staffers from an already-fragile health-care system, adding the drop in number of workers would have reduced health services and compromised efforts to improve working conditions.

In other COVID-19 news, restrictions were lifted on certain other activities, including removing the mask mandate for high-school students when they’re sitting in class, the ban on karaoke and dancing in bars. Restaurants will no longer be required to keep a customer log; however, seniors' homes must continue to keep a registry. Arranged seating and registrations are no longer mandatory for people attending public gathering. Weddings, funerals or other events and ceremonies are now limited to 250 people inside. A distance of one metre and the wearing of face masks are expected to be followed, but vaccine passports are not required by the government.

There will be no more distancing or capacity limits for events that require a vaccine passport. Masks must still be worn indoors, except while eating and drinking. Students in high schools don’t have to have their masks on in class, but they do have to wear them when they are moving around the building. Some teachers’ unions have expressed concern over the relaxed rules, saying that with colder weather on the way, the timing is curious.

“Things are going so well in high schools; there are very few cases — so why are we making this change now as we start to head toward more indoor activity?” asked Heidi Yetman, president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers.

Some epidemiologists have said the government’s relaxation of pandemic rules to be a little hasty, but Dube thinks the time is right to allow people more freedom in their day-to-day lives.

“I don’t think we’re going too fast, but we must be prudent,” Dubé said, adding he is keeping an eye on parts of the province – such as Nunavik, the Eastern Townships and Chaudière-Appalaches – where vaccination rates are lower.

“But I insist that people must follow public health measures if we want to get through this winter,” the minister added, noting the risk rises as people spend more time indoors with others.

In related news, the government also finally removed the recommendation that people work from home, allowing offices to re-open more substantially and allowing thousands of public-sector employees to get back to their office routines.

Meanwhile, Quebec reported 509 new COVID-19 cases Monday and one more death attributed to the virus. The seven-day average of new daily cases was 634. Health authorities said hospitalizations rose by 13 to 202, after 21 patients entered hospital and eight patients were discharged. The number of people in intensive care was stable at 42.

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase

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