MONTREAL -- The Centrale des syndicats du Quebec (CSQ) union is calling on the Quebec government to withdraw pregnant teachers from classrooms to protect them from risks associated with COVID-19.

The CSQ says the government is more concerned about the shortage of teachers than the safety of pregnant educators.

The union noted the publication of two new studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. that highlight risks of premature births and the need for special care for babies born before term by mothers infected with the virus.

The CSQ says now is the time to act, and withdraw pregnant teachers from schools, no matter how far along the women are in their pregnancies.

In an interview, the president of the CSQ said physical distancing measures in place in schools to avoid transmission are inadequate for pregnant employees.

"Pregnant women should not be penalized for the teacher shortage," she said. "The government should not take any chances."

The Presse Canadienne tried to reach the office of Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge but was unable to get a comment.

In July, the Institut national de santé publique du Quebec said it was too soon to determine if COVID-19 infection could have an impact on a pregnancy in the first or second trimesters.

But according to new data, among women who got infected in their third trimester, many had to give birth by Cesarean section, and many of them gave birth prematurely.

The INSPQ concluded in its July report that pregnant women are a "vulnerable group who need special preventative measures in their workplaces."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2020.