Quebec to require all health-care workers to be vaccinated, masks to be mandatory in post-secondary institutions
MONTREAL -- Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced Tuesday that the government will require health-care workers to be fully vaccinated, but for now educators are exempt from the new health measure.
At a news conference, the premier said all public and private sector workers in the health-care network who deal with the public for 15 minutes or more on a daily basis will need to have received two doses of the vaccine by Oct. 1. About 90 per cent of health-care workers are already vaccinated, according to Legault.
Legault also announced that students in CEGEPs and universities will be required to wear masks while seated in class, not just in common areas.
The government is urging people to get their first and second doses in an August "blitz" to prepare for an expected increase in COVID-19 cases as the back-to-school season is around the corner. Public health is projecting a rise in cases with more social contacts once kids are back in the classroom.
"The fourth wave is here, it is strong, the Delta variant is very contagious and there is a true risk when it comes to hospitalizations and deaths," Legault said.
As early as next week, there will also be a parliamentary commission in the National Assembly with opposition parties to debate mandatory vaccinations for other types of public workers, including teachers. When asked what consequences employees could face if they refuse a mandatory vaccination, Legault said that will be discussed in the debate.
As of Tuesday, 74 per cent of the eligible population in Quebec (12 years old and over) are fully vaccinated, but the government said it believes a target of 90 or 95 per cent is achievable.
"I would have liked it if this fall we didn't have to do these press conferences, but the Delta variant changed things everywhere throughout the world," said Quebec's public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda.
"The more we're vaccinated, perhaps people will get COVID but they won't overwhelm our hospital system and they won't die from the COVID."
VACCINE PASSPORTS FOR TOURISTS?
There was no announcement on vaccine passports, which are still being tested in Quebec in a series of pilot projects. The passports will be required to access non-essential sevices in Quebec, such as restaurants, bars, and gyms, beginning Sept. 1.
Dube was asked how tourists will be able to access those services since they won't have a Quebec-issued QR code. The health minister said he is exploring alternatives for tourists, including using the federal government's ArriveCAN smartphone app to include proof of vaccination. Dube did not offer any specifics on how that would work.
Another option Dube floated was to ask non-Quebecers to visit a vaccination clinic to request a QR code that will be readable by the new app Quebec is launching next month.
He also said the ministry of health is working on a "practical" paper-based version of the QR code that residents can keep in their wallet if they don't wish to use the smartphone application.
Dube said last week that COVID-19 update news briefings would again happen on a weekly basis. Starting Tuesday, daily COVID-19 updates began to include the vaccination status of the new positive cases and new hospitalizations with those numbers dating back four weeks.
Quebec reported Tuesday that 323 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, and of those, 216 (67 per cent) were not vaccinated.
"Only 112,000 appointments are reserved for the next seven days," Dube wrote. "We have the capacity in terms of vaccines and availability (with or without appointment). If we want to exceed our goals, we must go get our second dose."
Though new cases in Quebec are on the rise, hospitalizations, intensive care ward cases and deaths due to COVID-19 have remained stable.
The Quebec Institute of Public Health (INSPQ) reported two deaths since July 23, and both of those people were between 30 and 39 years old.