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Quebec Premier François Legault answers a question during a press conference in Montreal on December 16.Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press

Health unions oppose Quebec’s decision to allow some asymptomatic workers infected with COVID-19 to stay on the job, even as infectious disease specialist warned more Canadian provinces could be forced to take action similar as Omicron increases.

Quebec said on Tuesday it had no choice but to allow some essential health workers to continue working instead of isolating themselves at home after testing positive, to prevent shortages. of personnel cripple health services.

A number of unions have said they fear the move will put further strain on healthcare networks and workers and patients at risk.

“The network is not prepared to face the risks of the government’s decision to bring asymptomatic infected staff back to work. At the moment, we are not even able to test the personnel in their workplace, ”said Réjean Leclerc, president of the Federation of Health and Social Services, which represents 120,000 health workers. public and private sectors in Quebec.

Leclerc called for better tests for workers and better ventilation in hospitals.

“We cannot subscribe to this decision which endangers the health and safety not only of our members, but above all of the vulnerable people to whom they must provide essential care and services”, declared the Alliance du personnel professionnel et health and social services technology. in a social media post.

The union represents 60,000 workers in public health and social services establishments across Quebec.

Provinces across Canada, including densely populated Quebec and Ontario, are reporting new daily records of COVID-19 cases as the highly infectious variant of Omicron takes hold, forcing tens of thousands of people to isolate yourself.

Andrew Morris, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, said Wednesday that other provinces are likely discussing similar measures to help tackle staff shortages in hospitals.

“All jurisdictions in the northern hemisphere face the same problem. The clear reality is that we will not be able to function by keeping everyone isolated for 10 days, ”he said.

Morris said he was unaware of other jurisdictions allowing infected healthcare workers to work, but noted that Norway had already shortened their isolation period during a wave of the Delta variant earlier this winter.

U.S. health officials also shortened the recommended isolation time for Americans with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to five days on Monday from the previous 10-day directive.

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