Quebec to lift mask mandate in almost all indoor settings on May 14

“We’re trying to find a balance,” says Dr. Jean Longtin, a microbiologist with the Quebec Health Ministry in a press conference Wednesday about Quebec lifting its mask mandate in most indoor public spaces May 14. Pamela Pagano reports.

Quebec is lifting its mask mandate in most indoor public spaces next week, becoming the last Canadian province to remove the COVID-19 health restriction.

The mask mandate will be lifted May 14 at 12:01 a.m.

Dr. Luc Boileau, the province’s top doctor, says the restriction is being removed because all COVID-19 indicators in the province are trending in the right direction.

He says active cases, hospitalizations and health-care worker absences are down, which led to public health’s decision.

“I think we’re quite confident that this is good timing, a good date,” said Boileau at Wednesday’s press conference alongside Dr. Jean Longtin, a microbiologist with the Quebec Health Ministry.

Quebec reported 30 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus Wednesday and a 19-patient drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations, for a total of 2,176 patients in hospital with the disease.

Last week, Boileau said he would likely recommend the end of masks if the epidemiological situation shows improvements.

“In our board we have many indicators that we look at,” said Longtin. “The first one is the raw number of cases that we see through our testing policy that we have right now, and this number of cases is going down. The positivity rate as well. We also look at outbreaks in elderly people, long-term facilities, etc. And this is also on the bright side.”

Masks still required on transit, health-care settings

Masks will still need to be worn in certain situations.

Those include public transit “for a certain time,” said Boileau, because he says it’s harder to control distancing.

Masks will also continue to be required in hospitals, clinics and CHSLDs where there are more vulnerable people, Boileau explained.

The government is still recommending masks be worn as a personal choice “to keep others safe.”

“I hope we’re not sending a message that the pandemic is over because as Dr. Boileau said, the pandemic is not over,” added Longtin. “We’re right now living with the virus. We’re trying to find a balance between living and having our social activities and this is very important for our mental health and isolation of elderly people.

“COVID has had a lot of side effects. So we have to find a balance.”

Quebec will be the only province to require masking in most indoor public places – for one week – when Prince Edward Island lifts its mask order on May 6.

While Quebec is out of the sixth wave, Boileau does anticipate more waves to come. But he says restrictions will likely not be reinstated.

“We are not expecting to re-introduce any obligations for the wearing of the mask or any other measures,” he said. “But we do not know what’s going to happen, what will be the variant. It depends on what’s going to happen.”

Epidemiologist weighs in

Dr. Christopher Labos, a Montreal cardiologist and epidemiologist, says he will be keeping his mask on beyond May 14 despite the end of the mandate.

Labos says it’s a desired layer of protection because “there is still a lot of COVID out there,” and a lot of uncertainty.

“The masks obviously block the transmission of the virus,” he said. “I mean, it’s a respiratory virus. I think the obviousness of that is apparent to everyone. The masks are more important the more COVID we have circulating in the community. So if there is less and less COVID out there, then the masks are less and less important as a public-health measure.

“There’s a lot of advantages to masks even beyond COVID. We’re seeing a lot of flu now. So if you don’t want to get sick, whether it’s from COVID, the flu or any other respiratory virus, having everybody around you wearing a mask makes a big difference.”

Labos does agree with the government keeping masks mandatory in places like public transit and health-care settings.

“The reality of these places is you have a lot of people in a relatively small, confined space,” he said. “I mean, anybody who’s ever taken a bus or metro recently knows you’ve got a bunch of people. And if you’ve ever had somebody cough on you when you were on the metro, especially during rush hour, you understand how easy it is for diseases to spread.”

Top Stories

Top Stories