PEI

P.E.I. students returning to school Jan. 31, some restrictions to be eased

P.E.I. will resume in-class learning on Monday, Jan. 31, and other restrictions will be eased, Premier Dennis King and Dr. Heather Morrison announced Wednesday.

Gyms and restaurants will be able to reopen with 50 per cent capacity

Premier King offers sympathy to families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19

5 months ago
Duration 2:06
In an emotional speech during a pandemic briefing Wednesday, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King offered sympathy to the families who lost loved ones to COVID-19.

P.E.I. will resume in-class learning on Monday, Jan. 31, and other restrictions will be eased, Premier Dennis King and Dr. Heather Morrison announced Wednesday.

They made the announcement during a COVID-19 briefing. Epidemiologist Dr. Karen Phillips was also in attendance virtually.

King said students being out of of school for well over a month has "brought its own challenges," adding: "Our teachers, our school administrators, our parents have been champions through this, our kids have been champions through this, but it's time and we need to get them back into school."

Students will be subject to testing, masking and cohorting. King said an update will be held Thursday with details of the back-to-school plan.

Morrison announced the easing of other restrictions that will take effect Jan. 31, including:

  • Personal gatherings will be allowed with a steady, consistent maximum of 10 people. 
  • Organized gatherings of one cohort of 50 plus staff, provided there is physical distancing of people in different households, will be allowed. This applies to faith gathering, wedding and funeral ceremonies, theatres and concerts. Wedding and funeral receptions are not permitted.
  • Sport team practices and recreational activities can have up to 20 consistent individuals. 
  • Fitness facilities can open with 50 per cent capacity and physical distancing.
  • In-room dining can resume with 50 per cent capacity and six-feet distance between tables and maximum 10 per table. Standing receptions where food and drink are served are not permitted.
  • No dance floors or karaoke.
  • Masks cannot be removed at indoor events even with physical distancing.
  • Businesses and organizations can serve the public with 50 per cent capacity and physical distancing, including retail, museums and libraries.
  • Vax Pass program will remain in place for discretionary events and activities.
  • Visitation for long-term care is increased to three partners in care and three designated visitors. In homes where there are outbreaks additional measures will be in place.

The four-day isolation period, with testing, will continue for people arriving at points of entry on P.E.I. Morrison said it's important to keep that measure in place because, since Christmas, they have had weeks where more than 250 positive cases were reported at points of entry. Because those cases are caught quickly, it decreases the chances they will infect others.

Dr. Heather Morrison says modelling is not a crystal ball that will predict what will happen, but has been informative for decision making. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

Nine people with COVID-19 have died on P.E.I. in the last two weeks. P.E.I. still has the lowest death rate per capita in Canada, Morrison said.

There are 14 people in hospital being treated for COVID-19, including two in the intensive care unit.

On Wednesday, Morrison announced 255 new cases of COVID-19. There are 2,640 active cases and 6,800 since the pandemic began. Morrison said she expects more cases when students return to school on Monday.

"It's always a balance going forward," Morrison said. "It was never intended to stop Omicron, the circuit breaker ... it was to suppress the cases and make sure the hospital could manage the capacity and so we could open up a little bit more."

It's always a balance going forward.— Dr. Heather Morrison

King said it is difficult to know exactly when is the best time to loosen restrictions, and realizes people will disagree with their decision.

"There's 159,998 people who will be able to look back in a week and say, 'We should have did this' or 'We shouldn't have did that' or 'I would've did this' and 'I would have done that,'" said King.

"I guess we're the only two who don't get to do that."

Morrison also provided modelling numbers for P.E.I.

She said the modelling shows that without a circuit breaker announced Jan. 18, P.E.I. was expected to average more than 300 cases a day for a number of weeks.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says keeping students out of school has presented its own challenges. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

"The forecasts show that if we collectively decrease our contact rates, the peak of this surge should be lower for new cases and hospitalizations," Morrison said.

Morrison said the test positivity rate over the past seven days was 18 per cent, which is down from previous weeks.

She said it's important to consider trends when making decisions moving forward. She said eventually they will concentrate more on hospitalizations than case counts.

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