Quebec announces yet another change to outdoor masking rules
'If you're not sure, wear the mask,' Premier Legault tells Quebecers after flip-flopping on guidelines
After a week of confusion, criticism and low levels of adherence, Premier François Legault has, once again, changed the rules for when masks must be worn outside in Quebec's orange and red zones.
In a Facebook post Wednesday, Legault said Quebecers no longer have to wear masks when doing sporting activities with people from different households, as long as physical distancing can be maintained.
He also stipulated that couples who don't live together no longer have to wear a mask when spending time with each other outside.
Last Tuesday, Quebec announced in a late evening new release that, for the first time in the pandemic, masks would be obligatory outdoors in certain circumstances, including when groups from different households are close together.
That measure appeared to be only irregularly followed last weekend, when parks across Montreal were jammed with people thanks to record-high temperatures.
The rules have been tweaked repeatedly since they were first announced last week.
The Health Ministry initially said masks would be mandatory when groups of two or more gathered outside in close proximity. Then the ministry said it would only be applied when three or more were together. By Monday, it was back to two people.
On Monday, the ministry informed reporters that even couples, if the partners lived in different residences, would have to wear masks when, for example, sitting in a park. However, if they were inside, they would not be required to mask up.
That clarification brought scorn from opposition parties.
"You have the right to French-kiss your partner at home at night, but if you want to take a walk during the day, you have to wear a mask," Québec Solidaire's Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said earlier on Wednesday.
"I have trouble understanding this directive."
After the latest change was announced, Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said the confusion illustrated a recurring problem with the government's public health messaging.
"They should have taken the time in the press conference to explain the situation regarding masks. And because they didn't, they've had to go back and revisit the decision," Anglade said.
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Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, the Parti Québécois's leader, was dismayed Legault resorted to his Facebook account to reveal the change, as opposed to addressing reporters.
"They used Facebook to avoid journalists. That's not acceptable in a democracy," Plamondon said.
On Thursday, Legault met with reporters in Quebec City and said he felt a Facebook post was the best way to clear things up quickly.
"I didn't have a news conference planned for yesterday. I had the choice to wait until this morning to tell you everything, or publish a message first on social media, and then answer your questions this morning," Legault said.
The premier acknowledged that the hazy and ever-changing rules were causing confusion, but he also doesn't believe that will affect the public's willingness to follow them.
"I think the majority of Quebecers understand. It's a question of common sense," he said.
"I just want to tell Quebecers, If you're not sure, wear the mask. Be careful."
With files from Cathy Senay at the National Assembly