For now, London won't follow Toronto and make masks mandatory in public

London's medical officer of health is for now not recommending that London follow Toronto's lead bring in rules that would make masks mandatory as a way to contain the spread of COVID-19.

But Dr. Chris Mackie hints there may be more to say about this on Thursday

Three people in surgical masks walk towards the entrance of the Food Island Supermarket in London, Ontario. (Colin Butler/CBC)

London's medical officer of health is for now not recommending that London follow Toronto's lead and move to make face masks mandatory in public to contain the spread of COVID-19, but hinted that he may have more to say on the issue on Thursday. 

On Tuesday Toronto city council voted unanimously to make masks or face coverings mandatory in indoor public spaces as more businesses reopen. Toronto has passed a bylaw to help with enforcement of the new rule, which makes masks mandatory on transit and in enclosed public spaces such as stores, malls, art galleries and places of worship. 

However for now, neither Mackie nor Mayor Ed Holder are pushing for London to follow suit. 

During the Middlesex-London Health Unit's daily briefing on Tuesday, Mackie ​​​​​​cited section 22 of the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act which requires the medical officer of health to act when there is an immediate risk of a communicable disease. He said that for now, nothing he's seen has met that threshold.

"As of our last evidence review, and on the balance of where we're at in the community, our assessment was that the Health Protection Promotion Act here in London is not yet justified," he said. "But we're watching the data in the community and we're watching the emerging medical evidence and reviewing that as we speak." 

For now, the province only recommends masks for people who: 

  • Have symptoms and are around other people. 
  • Who  are caring for someone who has COVID-19. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends wearing a non-medical mask or face covering in public places. However, mandatory mask laws are spreading in Canada

For example, the city of Kingston has made masks mandatory at many indoor locations after an outbreak there. 

On Monday, mayors throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area asked for a mandatory mask policy across Ontario but were rejected by Premier Doug Ford's government.

A man uses his phone as he walks past a store on selling masks May 14, 2020 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Ford has repeatedly said that he believes such a policy would be impossible to enforce, and that his government trusts people to make responsible decisions when they leave their homes. The province has said medical officers of health have the authority to bring in rules for masking as they see fit. 

Mackie said a city may decide to pursue a masking bylaw as a way to support the economy, or for other reasons outside of his jurisdiction, which is limited to health protection. 

"I do my best to keep in touch with the community's values, but I'm not the expert on the community's values," he said. "It's elected officials who are experts in the community's values." 

Holder said he and Mackie are in constant communication on the issue and that any change "will be made concurrently." 

"What I've been advised by Dr. Mackie is that he and his team are actively reviewing all available evidence and re-evaluating the current directive which is a strong recommendation to wear a mask in public," said Holder. "We're very close in our dialogue on this because this is a shared priority." 

Londoners weigh in

CBC News spoke to a handful of Londoners about masking rules as they entered a big-box home centre on Tuesday. 

Many were wearing masks headed inside from the parking lot, and most said making them mandatory could only help. 

Launda Campbell said she's in favour of making masks mandatory in public places indoors.  

"I think it's an awesome idea," she said. 

"I could have the virus and not know I have it and I could be spreading it and I really don't want to pick it up from anybody."



Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.


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