Quebec's Transport Ministry says masks 'highly recommended' in public transit

The MTQ says people should wear masks, but that they don't replace other health recommendations such as keeping a safe distance from others and practising proper hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

STM continuing to look for ways to protect passengers and employees from COVID-19

The STM has reported a dramatic drop in Metro ridership over the last two months. Many who do still use the public transit network are already wearing masks. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Quebec's Ministry of Transport is now among those calling on the public to cover their face when riding public transit.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the MTQ says wearing a face covering is "highly recommended," but it does not replace other health recommendations such as keeping a safe distance from others and practising proper hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

"The situation will be closely monitored and other measures could be implemented if necessary," the statement says.

The MTQ says it wishes to reassure riders and workers that public transit remains safe and that all measures are taken to ensure a healthy environment.

For employers, it is important to favour working from home or to offer flexible schedules to employees who use public transit in order to avoid excessive traffic during peak hours, the ministry says.

The MTQ also released a safety guide for public transit employees to follow while on the job. The guide was produced in collaboration with INSPQ, Quebec's public health research institute, and CNESST, Quebec's workplace safety board.

Last week, Montreal's public transit agency, the STM, announced it is acquiring homemade masks and face coverings to be distributed to employees. Hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed in Metro stations as well.

The STM is continuing to look into measures to protect passengers and employees once the economy gets back up and running, the agency says on its website. The STM says it is following the recommendations of public health authorities.

Montreal's public health authority has "strongly recommended" masks or face coverings be worn where physical distancing is impossible. However, both the province and its largest city have stopped short of making face coverings mandatory.

The MTQ's recommendation comes several weeks after the province's public health director encouraged the population to cover up when riding the bus or metro.

"People who will be on transportation will have to use a mask," Dr. Horacio Arruda said last month. "It isn't obligatory, but it is a strong recommendation."

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