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COVID-19: Quebec to mandate vaccinations for health-care workers, masks for university students

Click to play video: 'Quebec mandates COVID-19 vaccinations for health-care providers who work with patients'
Quebec mandates COVID-19 vaccinations for health-care providers who work with patients
Quebec Premier François Legault announced that the province is mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for health-care workers who are in contact with patients as the province deals with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. "The fourth wave is here" Legault stated on Tuesday. – Aug 17, 2021

Quebec is implementing more measures to stem the tide of COVID-19 as the pandemic’s fourth wave sets in, the province’s premier announced Tuesday.

François Legault says masks will be mandatory in classrooms in universities and CEGEPs, the province’s junior colleges, as students head back to class amid rising case and hospitalization numbers.

The government is also consulting with public health authorities about tightening the mask mandate in elementary and high schools in the coming days, he added.

“Even if it’s warm, even if it’s summer, the situation is worrying and we have to take measures,” Legault told reporters in Quebec City.

The vaccination campaign is working well, Legault said, but there are concerns about the spread of the Delta variant as the upcoming school year looms and the cold weather returns. At least 85 per cent of people who are 12 and older have received a first shot in the province.

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“But, despite that, we’re seeing a fourth wave and Quebec will not be spared,” Legault said.

Quebec is also mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for health-care workers who are in contact with patients as the province deals with a resurgence in virus indicators.

The rule will apply to any health-care worker who enters into contact with patients for more than 15 minutes at a time, including nurses and doctors. But Legault did not say when the new health order will enter into force.

Legault said 90 per cent of of health-care workers are vaccinated, but the remaining 10 per cent pose a risk to patients. He stressed the step is necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19.

He added his government will hold a debate in the legislature next week regarding the vaccine mandate for health workers but also on the possibility of requiring vaccination for other public sector employees.

“As for teachers and other public-sector workers, it’s not our intention to make the vaccine mandatory,” Legault said.

Vaccination blitz in coming weeks

Quebec is hoping to carry out a “vaccination blitz” over the next two weeks as schools reopen and the province’s vaccine passport system to access some non-essential services comes into effect.

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The goal is to get as many eligible adults and teens as possible to roll up their sleeves if they haven’t done so already. Those who do have their booster shot booked should also bump it up if they can, Legault said.

“I’m calling on all Quebecers,” he said. “Please, book an appointment.”

READ MORE: Quebec’s daily COVID-19 rate could soon reach 2,000 again, François Legault says

The premier said the COVID-19 vaccine is effective in reducing the risks associated with the disease and transmitting it to others.

For those who are worried, Legault stressed the risk of the novel coronavirus “far exceeds” the risks associated with the vaccine.

“The situation is worrying,” he said. “But we do know that vaccines work very well in preventing people from getting COVID and in keeping people out of hospitals.”

—With files from The Canadian Press

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