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P.E.I. to discontinue Vax Pass on Monday

P.E.I. has announced it will be discontinuing the Vax Pass next week.

During a briefing Wednesday, Premier Dennis King said the pass, which is currently required to access certain services, will no longer be in use as of Monday at 12:01 a.m. 

That’s weeks ahead of the program’s anticipated discontinuation, as per the province’s COVID-19 transition timeline

King said the decision to eliminate the pass sooner than planned is based in science.

“Nobody wants these mandates to be in place any longer than they need to be,” he said.

“We now almost have two months or a little more with Omicron. So we have information here in P.E.I. that we never had in other phases of the pandemic.”

Dr. Heather Morrison, the province’s chief public health officer, said the pass has been effective at reducing transmission, but that the Omicron variant has led to cases even among vaccinated individuals.

Dr. Heather Morrison said the province has to weigh the effectiveness of COVID-19 restrictions against the risks when it comes to easing them. (CBC)

However, Morrison said people who are unvaccinated are still at a higher risk to develop serious outcomes from COVID-19 even if Omicron is milder, and encouraged those who haven’t done so to get the shot. 

“We’re not declaring victory, but rather we’re adjusting how to live with this virus more sustainably,” she said. 

“Although a resurgence is still possible, we should be optimistic. We have a high rate of immunity among our population, which lowers our overall risk of serious outcomes. We know what public health measures work, and we have treatments for those of higher risk for outcomes.”

Morrison said if the province has to respond to future COVID-19 waves, it will do so using less restrictive measures. The CPHO will continue to monitor case trends and adjust measures accordingly.

Province lifting some isolation requirements

The same day the pass is discontinued, the province will also remove self-isolation requirements for travellers who aren’t fully vaccinated entering the province. They still must get tested on entry and on Day 4 of their visit.

Isolation requirements for some close contacts will be lifted Thursday.

Non-household close contacts such as classmates and work colleagues no longer have to isolate, though they still have to get tested on Day 4 at a testing clinic, wear three-layer masks when not at home, and work from home if possible. They shouldn’t wait until Day 4 to get tested if they develop symptoms.

Household contacts regardless of vaccination status are still required to isolate for 96 hours, and have to get tested on Day 4 or if symptoms develop.

Both types of close contacts can’t visit any high-risk settings for 10 days after exposure, though staff at these types of facilities can return to work provided they complete the required isolation and follow the proper COVID-19 protocols.

People who test positive still need to self-isolate.

Morrison said the province has to weigh the effectiveness of COVID-19 restrictions against the risks when it comes to easing them.

“Our contact management changes … may actually increase some cases,” she said. “But we try to do that knowing that we really think it’s important to have children in class as much as possible, that they continue to participate in their activities.”

She said recent anti-mandate demonstrations on P.E.I. did not influence the CPHO’s decisions.

2 people in hospital

The Chief Public Health Office also announced two people are in the hospital due to COVID-19 and two others who were admitted for other reasons have also tested positive.

There have been 526 new cases since the CPHO’s last COVID-19 update. Morrison said the case numbers are high because testing clinics were closed Monday for Islander Day.

The province currently has 2,316 active cases. On average, 244 cases have been confirmed per day over the last seven days.

Currently, there are outbreaks in two long-term care facilities.

There are 18 early learning and child-care centres “impacted” by COVID-19, Morrison said, with nine centres open, two closed and seven open at modified or reduced capacity.

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