Université Laval medical students forced online after COVID-19 outbreak

After several medical students in Quebec City were infected by SARS-CoV-2 at an off-campus social activity, administrators of the program at Université Laval have taken measures to halt in-person learning until April 1.

In-person learning, including internships, halted until April 1 after several students infected by SARS-CoV-2

The sign of a university displays the name of the school.
Several medical students at Université Laval in Quebec City have COVID-19 after an off-campus social activity, according to a university spokesperson. (Radio-Canada)

Medical students enrolled at Université Laval in Quebec City will be back to learning online until April 1, following a COVID-19 outbreak. 

The program's director emailed students Tuesday informing them of the situation after several students reported that they had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

"We have been made aware of an outbreak in the community which is affecting several of the medical students," said Marc Bouchard in his email. 

"In this context, the doctor of medicine program management informs you that all program activities are moving to remote mode from now until April 1, 2022, inclusively." 

University spokesperson Andrée-Anne Stewart said the number of infected students is unknown, but the outbreak is due to a social activity held off campus. She said the nature of the gathering is unknown. 

"As a preventive measure, we decided immediately to move the doctor of medicine program online ... to protect the security and health of the students." 

Exams scheduled for this week will be rescheduled for a later date, and pre-clerkship lectures will take place remotely. Health-care institutions where students are doing their clinical internships will be contacted and those internships rescheduled..

In-person classes will resume Monday, April 4. 

Quebec COVID-19 cases on the rise

The outbreak comes as Quebec is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations after a two-month decline. 

On Wednesday, the province reported a single-day total of 2,111 newly confirmed coronavirus cases. 

Given the limited availability of PCR tests and the use of home testing kits, daily case totals are believed to be an underrepresentation of the virus's spread.

It is, nevertheless, the first time in more than a month that the province has reported more than 2,000 cases in a single day.

COVID-19 cases have been climbing steadily in Europe, just as restrictions continue to lift across Quebec.

"You'd have to be a little naive to think that we will not have the same consequences," said Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious diseases specialist at the Montreal University Health Centre.

Earlier this month, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé announced mask rules will be lifted in most public areas, including in CEGEPs and universities, no later than mid-April. 

Asked if Université Laval would do away with the measure then, Stewart said the institution is "rigorously" following the province's masking rules and will follow advice from public health.

Quebec's interim public health director, Dr. Luc Boileau, will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. to provide an update on the province's epidemiological situation.

With files from Lauren McCallum and Radio-Canada