Canada: Unis pressing ahead with Covid mandates
Despite Canadian provinces and territories lifting virtually all Covid public health restrictions, including mandatory masking, several institutions will be turning to Covid mandates in the fall semester.
Crucially for international students, those planning to live in the University of Toronto’s residences must have vaccinations recognised by Health Canada, and can also get their jabs upon their arrival in Toronto.
U of T has paused on-campus vaccination requirements, but is maintaining them for students living in residence. It will also encourage students to wear a mask.
International students coming to Canada to start classes in September will face a 14-day quarantine if they have not had a recognised vaccine.
Some vaccines, especially those used in China, are not currently recognised by Health Canada.
When students arrive at a Canadian airport, those who must quarantine will be asked to show if they have a place to stay and how they will be supported, including how they will get food and medication.
David Agnew, the president of Seneca College – which sees a large number of international students – saw the devastating impact of viruses while working with UNICEF – hence the decision to maintain some of the most stringent Covid restrictions on Canadian campuses come the start of the academic year.
“I was the head of UNICEF Canada in a previous career and I have seen first-hand the life-changing impacts of vaccinations,” Agnew wrote last year. “I have seen the other side: What happens when a virus or disease rages out of control.”
However, Agnew believes Seneca must remain cautious. In a memo to students this summer, he warned that “the pandemic is not over, and Covid-19 continues to be a threat, particularly for the vulnerable and immunocompromised”.
Students, faculty and visitors at Seneca must be fully vaccinated and will be required to wear masks in classrooms when programs resume in September.
“Our goal remains to support as much on-campus instruction while taking sensible precautions”
While 85% of Canadians have at least one dose of vaccine, a small but vocal group has been protesting Covid rules.
Across Canadian campuses, there is a range of difference in chosen measures. Some schools are maintaining restrictions while others have dropped them completely. Most classes will be in person this fall after programs shifted to online learning during the pandemic
One question remains – will there be another big wave of Covid this winter as people spend more time indoors?
British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix says there are no plans to return to mask requirements. However, it depends on whether Covid numbers stay low.
“No option is ever excluded,” he said.
Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, suspended mandatory masking on campus in June, and has instead voluntary masking – and is asking people to “respect individual choices”.
Mt. Allison University in New Brunswick is keeping its masking requirement for indoors, except in cafeterias and fitness facilities, while offering free Covid tests and monitoring indoor air quality.
“Our goal remains to support as much on-campus instruction, research, student services, and recreational activities as possible, while taking sensible precautions designed to help reduce the health impacts and transmission of Covid-19,” Mt. Allison says on the institution’s website.
The University of Manitoba will be requiring masks this fall, but is allowing instructors to remove them while teaching as long as they maintain physical distance from students. The school is making rapid test kits available.
As classes are scheduled to resume next month, post-secondary campus managers have their fingers crossed – hoping that the next wave will be a mild one.