The Gleaner
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Orange zone on the horizon; NFSB to play significant role in vaccinating students

Valley residents can enjoy the sunset this Friday without worrying about getting home before curfew as the emergency measure first introduced in January will officially be lifted across the province on May 28. Local restaurants will be able to open terraces starting Friday, and outdoor gatherings on private property will be permitted, while restricted to a maximum of eight people from two separate homes. Movement between regions will once again be allowed.

As of May 31, the Montérégie region, along with much of the province, will be downgraded to an orange zone, allowing for restaurants to seat two adults from different addresses accompanied by their minor age children in dining rooms. Bars will remain closed until June 11, when patrons will be able to enjoy a drink on the terrace once again.

Secondary students will return to in-person learning full time, and indoor sports and recreation activities can resume without contact in public venues. Places of worship will be able to welcome up to 100 people, while weddings and funerals will continue to be capped at 25 attendees. Large outdoor events and festivals will be allowed after June 25, with a maximum of 2,500 participants.

The reopening plan relies heavily on Quebecers continuing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and on continued compliance with the safety measures in place. Earlier this week, the government announced plans to allow Quebecers to move up their appointment for a second dose as early as next week as part of a move to ensure a second dose is available to everyone by August 31.

Quebec is currently leading all provinces with 55 per cent of the population having received a first injection. Only four per cent of the population has received a second dose, however. Just under 55 per cent of the population over 18 years of age in the Haut-Saint-Laurent local health network (LHN) has received a first dose, which continues to be below the average for the Montérégie (62.9 per cent) and well behind the vaccination rate in the Suroît LHN (69.7 per cent).

For the past several days, the number of cases reported throughout the province has dropped to fewer than 400 cases. There are currently 75 outbreaks in the Montérégie, mainly located in school and work environments. There are eight cases in the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent, and 22 cases in the MRC des Jardins-de-Napierville.

Health Minister Christian Dubé has also announced that young people between 12 and 17 years of age will be able to receive a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine before the end of the school year. Appointments can be booked now for young people; however, vaccination campaigns will also be organized with secondary schools between June 7 and 18.

For Rob Buttars, the director general of the New Frontiers School Board, the vaccination campaign is a “challenging but extremely important task.”

Schools will play a key role in managing all the communications as well as parent permission slips for children under 14 years of age. The NFSB will also be coordinating and supervising transportation of students to vaccination centres, when necessary.

Regional school boards and service centres met with representatives from the Direction de Santé Publique de la Montérégie on Tuesday to plan and schedule the upcoming vaccination campaign.

A second dose should be made available to the same age group in late August, which could allow for a near-normal return to school come fall.

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