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Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey fields a question at the Confederation Building in St. John's, on July 28.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Public school students in Newfoundland and Labrador will return from the holiday break to remote learning starting Monday, as the province, like the rest of the Atlantic region, battles a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Premier Andrew Furey announced the change on Wednesday, one day after Nova Scotia extended the holiday break for students in that province by one week in order to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.

“Now is the time for precaution, not for panic,” Furey told reporters, as health officials reported 312 new infections – a record single-day case count for Newfoundland and Labrador. The province has 1,111 active reported cases of COVID-19.

Furey said the decision to switch to remote learning would be re-evaluated on a weekly basis in order to return students to in-person classes as soon as possible. Education Minister Tom Osborne said the move is not the government’s “preferred choice.”

School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic are having a detrimental effect on students and families, research shows

“The preferred choice is that we have in-class learning,” Osborne told reporters. “It’s better for our students; it’s better for their emotional and mental health.” The minister said schools will get an update every Thursday, starting Jan. 6.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald reported 44 more recoveries and said no one was in hospital with the disease. “The cases we are reporting this week are the result of transmission that took place just prior to and during Christmas,” she said.

The provincewide outbreak is the result of a number of factors, Fitzgerald said, such as indoor gatherings, many of which occurred in downtown bars and restaurants in the St. John’s area, were the majority of cases have been reported.

Fitzgerald issued a plea ahead of the New Year’s holiday.

“I encourage everyone to pare down their plans for New Year’s Eve and keep their close contacts to their steady 20 only,” she said.

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