Quebec urges people to stop gathering in battle against COVID-19 as specialist warns about risks in schools
MONTREAL -- Quebec released its newest COVID-19 advertisement on Tuesday, in order to convey one clear message to Quebecers: stop gathering.
“We have to follow all the rules, all the time,” said the narrator of Quebec’s new video “Exceptions.”
“Any exception to the instructions can endanger a loved one and worsen the situation in our hospitals,” tweeted Premier Francois Legault, unveiling the video.
In it, the character “Annie,” a nurse, walks through her neighbourhood while images play of leftover food and empty wine glasses: remnants of people’s small indoor gatherings.
“Felix and Sophie spent the afternoon with their grandparents,” said the narrator. “Jean and Martin visited their youngest daughter for her birthday.”
In September, health authorities blamed small gatherings for the resurgence of COVID-19.
The second wave had begun, and Montreal’s Public Health director Mylene Drouin warned the public that a significant portion of the city’s cases had been linked to “parties, dinners, weddings, and social activities.”
“It’s really in those events we can see there is transmission going on,” she said.
Today, under stronger measures prohibiting indoor gatherings, reported outbreaks are much less common.
In its most recent report, Montreal reported just one active outbreak resulting from a social gathering on the island, as of Jan. 12.
Most outbreaks were reported in long-term care homes, workplaces, and elsewhere in the health network.
One area that’s not included in the city’s report, which came out just after the holidays, is schools.
WHAT ABOUT SCHOOLS?
This week, across the province, students are returning to classrooms as the winter break comes to a close.
Dr. Matthew Oughton, infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital, says schools pose a significant risk to a province still dealing with the explosive spread of COVID-19.
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to see substantial increases over the next one or two weeks,” he said.
Last week, a study found schools were a significant contributor to the spread of the coronavirus.
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“The transmission of COVID among school-age children is not a consequence, but rather a determinant of the general level of infection in surrounding communities,” wrote the authors.
“At present, if you look at our collection of mitigation measures to reduce transmission,” said Oughton, “school represents one of the gaps.”
On Jan. 8, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge unveiled the new rules for schools returning for in-person classes.
Under those new rules, report cards were changed, early vaccinations were promised for teachers and staff, and more students needed to wear masks in more circumstances.
But Oughton says there’s still room for improvement.
“We have enacted much less stringent measures on schools than we have on other areas.”
He says masks should be required for all children at all times, except in situations where students can’t because of a medical condition.
“We need to do everything we can to reduce transmission.”