Amid skyrocketing numbers of cases and an increasing strain on the health network, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced that the government will begin allowing Quebec essential workers, including health care workers and employees from other essential fields, to continue working even if they test positive for COVID-19.
Dubé said the extraordinary measure would only be allowed "in certain cases" according to a "priority list and risk management" strategy. The government, he said, will release more details in the coming days.
The health minister further reminded the public this new measure is not only for health care workers, but "applies to all essential workers."
Dubé added that it was necessary to introduce the measure "if we want our society to continue to function in a secure manner."
"If we had the personnel that was necessary, we would not have to introduce this measure. But at this time, we have to take very concrete, practical measures."
On the day of the conference, December 28, Quebec reported 12,833 new COVID-19 cases — the highest number reported in the province since the beginning of the pandemic.
Tuesday's data reported a total of 702 hospitalizations recorded, showing a net increase of 88. Of the 702 hospitalizations, 115 were in intensive care, a net increase of six.
Due to this immense rise in cases and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in our province, Quebec will be expanding the list of individuals who can receive a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine rapidly.
Premier François Legault recently announced that unvaccinated Quebecers are going to be charged a "significant" fee if they refuse to get at least their first dose in the next few weeks unless they have a medical reason not to.
The premier began by saying that said that the Government of Quebec will "reach out one by one" to the 600,000 adults who have not yet received a vaccine dose to inform about the fee and ensure that the person is not in a vulnerable situation and has good reasons to refuse the vaccine.
"The objective, indeed, is to be able to have a list of people who refuse to be vaccinated, not for medical reasons, not because they don't speak French or because they don't have access to vaccines. And these people, if they really refuse, given that they bring an enormous burden on the health network, I think it is normal that they pay a contribution," Legault stated
How much such will cost has not been announced yet, nor is it known exactly what form it will take. The "health contribution" was compared on the program to a "fine" received for running a red light.
Guy A. Lepage, one of the show's hosts, asked Mr. Legault how the government was going to get the list of non-vaccinated people, since patients' medical information is supposed to be protected by confidentiality.
Government lawyers are working on this and a bill is expected to be debated with the opposition parties in the National Assembly in early February, which is when we'll find out how much the fee will cost.
According to Legault, if important surgeries are postponed, it is "a lot because of the non-vaccinated."
"One person going into intensive care can cost up to $50,000. Multiply that [by] a few hundred non-vaccinated people continually adding up, it's a lot of money, but it's mostly a risk for all the people who have their surgeries postponed."
Rejoice! We can officially go on nightly walks again (if you can handle the cold) because Quebec's curfew was lifted as of Monday, January 17. That means no rushing to get home on time while risking fines.
During a press conference on Thursday, Premier François Legault said, "The reason we did this was to stop the exponential growth of the number of infections and then the number of hospitalizations. So given that we seem to have reached a peak, that permits us to remove the curfew."
In an Instagram video, the premier announced the news about the end of the province-wide curfew but added "We need to be careful, reduce our contacts, think of the personnel in our hospitals. I’m counting on you.”
The curfew was implemented on New Year's Eve and required everyone in the province to stay inside between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., with some exemptions.
This curfew, which lasted just over two weeks, was much shorter than the previous one.
Quebec's first curfew lasted over four months, from January 9 to May 28, 2021.
We no longer have to worry about being out during certain hours, but Quebecers are still prohibited from having private indoor gatherings right now. Luckily, there are all kinds of outdoor activities you can do in Montreal.
With the winter storm the province is currently facing, we're not sure anyone will feel like going for a stroll past 10 p.m. tonight anyway. But at least now we know we can without risking fines!
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
As a contingency plan to deal with a high number of staff shortages expected at schools in the coming weeks, Quebec's Ministry of Education has said parent volunteers might be asked to supervise classes if too many teachers get sick with COVID-19 and need to isolate. But, unlike teachers who are subject to Bill 21, volunteer parents can wear religious symbols in the classroom.
Quebec's controversial Bill 21, also known as Quebec's secularism law, prohibits public service workers — from police officers to teachers — from wearing hijabs, kippahs, crosses, turbans and other forms of religious symbols while at work. In fact, an elementary school teacher in Chelsea was removed from her position last month for wearing a hijab.
This has sparked questions as to whether parent volunteers need to abide by the same rules. However, in an email to MTL Blog, the Ministry of Education confirmed that they do not.
"Schedule 2, paragraph 10, of the Act respecting the laicity of the State, which specifies who is affected by the prohibition in section 6 on wearing religious symbols in the performance of their duties, refers only to teachers and principals in public elementary and secondary schools," said Bryan St-Louis, media relations manager for the Ministry of Education.
"Parents will not act as teachers. Therefore, they will not be covered by section 6 of the Act."
At a press conference on Thursday, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said parents who are asked to keep an eye on classes as a "last resort" will not be asked to perform the same duties as teachers.
"It's not like we're asking parents to become teachers," he said. "A parent might come and supervise a class."
Quebec schools are set to reopen on Monday, January 17.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
On December 30, 2021, François Legault announced a handful of restrictions across Quebec, which included the closure of indoor dining and places of worship, and the postponement of a return to in-person learning at schools in the new year. In a January 13 Facebook post, Legault confirmed elementary and high school students would be returning to class as of Monday, January 17. But what about university students?
Montreal CEGEPs and universities also reverted to remote learning, however, things are looking a little different for students returning to in-person classes at post-secondary institutions. Premier Legault stated in a January 12 post that while universities could reopen their doors as of the 17th, they are being given extra leeway to determine the exact date in which in-person classes could resume.
Concordia University students are expected to return back to in-person learning on February 3, per a recent news notice. Vannina Maestracci, the university spokesperson, revealed that the initial date was extended beyond January 20, and any possibility of a further extension will be relayed to the community as soon as possible.
The Concordia Library and Birks Student Service Centre remain open, along with a number of designated break areas for students to eat. As for mask requirements, students will be expected to wear procedure masks "when entering university buildings and using shared indoor spaces," including classrooms, the university states.
In-person learning will be returning even earlier for McGill University students. With "Tier 1" activities (labs, etc.) having been in-person since January 10, most instruction will be moving from online to in-person as of January 24. McGill's media relations rep, Katherine Gombay issued a statement that despite plans for return, the university remains flexible with contingency plans put into place in case the COVID-19 situation changes.
Université de Montreal is expected to return to in-person sessions as of January 31,* although their libraries have remained open. The university has also made it clear that the use of masks is "mandatory" across campus for all activities at all times.
The Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) has also stated that remote learning will take place until January 31.* However, many activities in which face-to-face teaching is essential will return as early as January 24.