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CANADA: Quebec shuts down schools, bars, gyms and more as COVID-19 case counts soar

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Quebec is closing schools, bars, gyms and movie theatres as public health officials race to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said in the face of the variant, which appears to be doubling its spread every couple days, the government had to take action to prevent the health-care system from being overwhelmed.

“The epidemiological situation is critical. The community spread is astounding,” said Dubé during the Monday news conference, appearing from home alongside public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda and Daniel Paré, who is in charge of Quebec’s vaccination campaign.

“Our health system is already in crisis … and things aren’t getting better. Hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions are on the rise.”

Schools close
Elementary and high schools will close early Monday, with students set to return to in-person learning on Jan. 10. That means primary school students will have a longer holiday, and high school students will switch to remote learning when classes are set to resume in the New Year.

Adult and professional education centres will also close.

Elementary school buildings will remain open only for vaccination campaigns and the distribution of rapid test kits. School daycare services will also continue to operate for parents who need them, prioritizing parents who work in the health-care sector. Private and provincially-run daycares will also remain open.

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