Students in the two provinces hardest hit by COVID−19 should be able to experience a “normal” return to school in the fall, officials said Wednesday as other provinces and territories looked to loosen pandemic−related travel restrictions.
Ontario and Quebec laid out their plans for schools Wednesday as they stressed the importance of vaccinations to keep students and educators safe.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that students who’ve been learning remotely since mid−April will continue doing so for the rest of the academic year, with plans to return to classrooms in the fall. Reopening schools now could lead to a spike in COVID−19 cases, he said.
“While no one wants kids back in school more than I do, as your premier, these aren’t risks I’m willing to take,” he said in an afternoon news conference.
Many public health experts had urged the province to reopen schools on a regional basis now to support students’ well−being.
In Quebec, Education Minister Jean−Francois Roberge said children and teens should be able to attend school without masks or classroom bubbles in the fall, as well as go on field trips and eat lunch in a common area.
But he said that’s only if infections remain low and at least 75 percent of kids aged 12 and up are vaccinated. About 45 percent of youth 12 to 17 have received a shot or made an appointment to get vaccinated so far, he said.
Officials will adjust the plan if COVID−19 cases increase, he said.
Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador said it could welcome travellers from the rest of Canada as early as July 1, presuming infections remain low and the province stays on track with its vaccination goals.
Travellers who are fully vaccinated would not have to self−isolate or present a negative COVID−19 test, while those who are partially vaccinated would have to show a negative result from a test taken within three days of their departure date, officials said.
Isolation requirements are also easing in the Northwest Territories, at least for visitors from Yukon.
Yukon travellers will need to submit a request to be exempt from isolation, and must not have any COVID−19 symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has the virus. But the exemption applies regardless of vaccination status.