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Quebec's higher education students can look forward to a return to normality this fall, McCann says

As long as 75 per cent of youth, aged 16 to 19, receive two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the time school starts, physical distancing will no longer be required, announced the province’s minister of higher education, Danielle McCann, on Monday.

Physical distancing not necessary if 75% of students get both vaccine doses

Danielle McCann, Quebec's minister of higher education, says CEGEP and university students have an opportunity to return to normal school life if they get vaccinated.Mc (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Come September, things could get back to normal for Quebec's CEGEP and university students — if all goes as planned.

As long as 75 per cent of youth, aged 16 to 19, receive two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the time school starts, physical distancing will no longer be required when they return to classrooms for the first time in more than a year, announced the province's minister of higher education, Danielle McCann, on Monday.

Students will be allowed to sit within one metre of each other in classrooms and as close as they want in common spaces, she said, but there's still a lot of students left to vaccinate first.

So far, 42 per cent of Quebec residents in this age group have received a first dose.

"We have to go to Clic Santé, we have to talk about it, we have to get this vaccine," said McCann. 

"What a victory it would be, at the start of the fall, if we had succeeded in this great challenge."

The minister said there would be accommodations for immunocompromised students who feel at risk in a crowded environment, but she did not specify how those accommodations will be offered.

Higher education institutions will have a plan in place should it become necessary to return to the constraints of physical distancing .

Additional measures, such as wearing a mask, may be applied depending on the epidemiological situation when school starts, the minister said.

With so much riding on how the vaccine campaign goes and the stability of the epidemiological situation, McCann said things could change, but announcing the plan now was necessary so institutions can prepare to welcome students back to campus.

McCann indicated she is optimistic about reaching the vaccination target in time.

"There is now a real possibility that the start of the school year will be attended on college and university campuses in Quebec," she said.

While the government has the return to school plan laid out for post-secondary education, high school students looking forward to a prom are out of luck.

And their graduation ceremonies will be a bit out of the ordinary — like just about everything else over the last year.

Quebec's Health Ministry stipulates that graduation ceremonies are to take place on school property, not in rented venues and that activities should be organized during school hours, within classroom bubbles only.

Proms or end-of-year dances are not permitted.

According to the government, students can take class photos but only in their class bubble. When it comes to signing yearbooks, this is allowed as long as each student uses their own pen.

Quebec Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda said on Monday that the epidemiological situation still does not allow for gatherings like proms, where numbers exceed allowable limits and where distancing is extremely difficult to maintain or monitor.

With files from Radio-Canada and La Presse canadiene

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