Montreal

Final decision on mask rule to be made next week, Quebec's top doctor says

Quebec's interim public health director says all signs point to the province scrapping mandatory mask rules as of May 14, but he says he wants to wait for more data before making his recommendation to the provincial government.

Province says many people testing positive for COVID-19 twice in short period of time

Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec's interim public health director, met with reporters on Thursday afternoon. He said he expects the province's indoor masking rules to be scrapped by May 14, but he added that he will make his recommendation next week. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

The province's top doctor expects mandatory masking rules for indoor public spaces to end on May 14, but he says he'll wait a few more days to make that recommendation, even though he believes the sixth wave in Quebec has already reached its peak.

"We're confident that over the next weeks, we will continue to move in the direction," said Dr. Luc Boileau, Quebec's interim public health director, during a news conference on Thursday.

"We can confirm that the decision regarding whether we continue [with mandatory masks] after the 14th will be made at the beginning of the next week. We'll have more complete data," he said.

Earlier Thursday, sources had told Radio-Canada that Boileau would announce his recommendation to scrap mask mandates by the middle of the next month. Radio-Canada then learned that Boileau was still mulling over his decision.

During the news conference, Boileau said all signs point to the spread of the virus slowing gradually — not quickly enough for public health officials to be comfortable with asking the Quebec government to get rid of the mask rule.

Even when masks become optional in most public places, the public health director said they will still be required in health-care settings and public transit "for a while."

The latest projections from Quebec's health research institute, the INESSS, show a decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the next two weeks. 

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

Getting COVID-19 twice in less than 3 months

Boileau said public health experts in the province are also noticing a trend of COVID-19 reinfections with the BA.2 variant.

He said between five and 10 per cent of recent cases involve people who caught COVID-19 in the last two months and are now getting infected a second time.

In light of this, Boileau said the province is changing its guidelines and now recommending that people experiencing symptoms get a rapid test if at least two months have gone by since their last infection. Previously, the province only advised people to get a test if three months had passed.

With files from The Canadian Press

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