No physical distancing for CEGEP, university students in Quebec next fall

CEGEP and university students will no longer be required to maintain physical distancing in the classroom for back-to-school season next fall, the government announced Monday.

Saying there is a "real possibility" that learning will take place on campus in fall 2021, Quebec Higher Education Minister Danielle McCann said the loosening of restrictions for post-secondary education will depend on two criteria: 75 per cent of the student population must be vaccinated and there must be a "stable" epidemiological situation.

McCann was joined by Quebec’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, to make the announcement Monday afternoon, just after the province reported its lowest daily increase of new COVID-19 cases since September 2020

The higher education minister said the plan will apply to classrooms and common areas but will depend on people rolling up their sleeves to get their shots. 

"It's really in your hands," McCann said. "It depends in great part on the success of the vaccination campaign."

Students will also be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities without physical distancing as well if the targets are met. However, post-secondary institutions will have to have a back-up plan in case the target of two doses in the arms of all students doesn’t materialize before the start of the fall semester.

As of Monday, 45 per cent of Quebecers aged 18-29 have received their first dose. Just 3 per cent of people in that demographic have received a second shot.

The back-up plan has to include solutions that can be "deployed quickly" in case there needs to be a return to physical distancing between students and staff alike, "which would be 1 metre in classrooms and commons areas," according to the government. Additional measures could be adopted as well, such as mandatory mask-wearing. 

In orange zones, post-secondary education can already take place in person, but with certain restrictions, including physical distancing. In red zones, such Montreal and Laval, remote learning is preferred. 

In both orange and red zones, students must keep 1.5 metres apart when they are seated in class or two metres apart in all other situations 

On Monday, eight regions of Quebec moved to the orange zone, including Lanaudière, Laurentides, Outaouais, Chaudière-Appalaches, and the Eastern Townships. 

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