Following Tuesday's announcement of Ontario's back-to-school strategy, which will see the return on in-class learning, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health has now indicated that there likely won't be any restrictions for children 12 and older who have not received COVID-19 vaccination.
"I do not anticipate any different approach, whether a child is vaccinated or unvaccinated, in any activities within the school setting," Dr. Moore said at a press conference on Wednesday.
"We would not be knowledgeable of their immune status and there shouldn't be any barriers or stigmatization of children who have not received a vaccine in any way, in normal activities, throughout the school year."
He added that outbreak management protocols are being finalized, in conjunction with local public health agencies, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, paediatric hospital and Public Health Ontario.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce reiterated that COVID-19 vaccination will not be mandatory for students of staff in schools.
"We will not mandate vaccine requirement for schools and for staff at this point," Lecce said. "Our aim is to encourage vaccination at a voluntary level."
"The return of in-person learning means that children will be able to interact directly with their friends and their teachers. Under this plan, student will return to a more normal, in-person and full-time learning experience, which we know parents and experts have urged us to do."
No asymptomatic testing planned
Dr. Moore added that Ontario should strive to achieve the "highest community vaccination rate."
"Keeping a low rate of infection in our communities is how we keep our schools, our businesses, our social settings safe," he said.
When asked about the lack of asymptomatic rapid testing in Ontario's back-to-school plan, Ontario's chief medical officer of health said that with community infection rates as low as they are now, there is "significant risk of rapid testing being a false positive."
"Then you need a confirmatory test from PCR," Dr. Moore explained, stating that this has been discussed with Public Health Ontario and local public health agencies.
"Rapid testing for asymptomatic individuals in low community rate of infection is too burdensome and will have too many false positives."
The provincial government has also updated it's back-to-school guidance, now allowing "high-contact" sports indoors.
"We think, with the combination and screening, having rapid access to testing if anyone develops any symptoms, high vaccination rates in our communities…that it is reasonable to be able to allow basketball to continue, as well as hockey," Dr. Moore said.
"We would like to allow broad-based participation in those sports."