Health professionals call on Quebec to make wearing masks mandatory

The group of 27 doctors and other health-care professionals is asking for masks to be mandatory for those who are 12 years of age or older in all indoor spaces, especially on public transit.

Doctors say masks are a 'low-cost, risk-free' way to limit the spread of COVID-19

A man wears a face mask as he walks along an extended sidewalk on Ste-Catherine Street in Montreal. A group of medical professionals want wearing masks to become mandatory in the province. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

A group of epidemiologists and other health professionals are calling on the government to make the wearing of masks mandatory in Quebec.

At a news conference Thursday morning, epidemiologist Nima Machouf said masks and other face-coverings are a "low-cost, risk-free" way to limit the spread of COVID-19 and curb a potential second wave this fall.

"It is now the time to listen to science," she said, adding that wearing masks until a vaccine is available is a way "to regain a bit of normalcy in our lives."

The group of 27 health-care professionals is asking for masks to be made mandatory for those who are 12 years of age or older in all indoor spaces, especially on public transit.

They also want masks to be worn in outdoor spaces where it is hard to keep two metres away from others.

"We have strong evidence now that the masks or face coverings can act as control of the source of the spread," said Dr. Amir Khadir, a microbiologist and former MNA, on CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

The World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now have data that show wearing masks helps prevent the spread of the virus.

Quebec's public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, said again Thursday the province is reluctant to make masks obligatory.

The province has strongly encouraged their use but argued making them mandatory would be difficult to police.

Arruda also said public health is still monitoring the guidelines around masks and the rules could change.

Montreal's transit authority is strongly recommending that passengers wear a mask when riding the bus or Metro. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

At the end of April, Canadian and Quebec public health officials started recommending wearing masks when physical distance cannot be maintained.

The group of doctors say that was a step in the right direction, but that more must be done to ensure people follow that guideline.

Khadir said for new infections to stay manageable, 80 per cent of Quebecers need to be wearing masks, and according to recent data, that number is only at about 50 per cent right now.

Instead of issuing hefty fines, masks should be given to those who do not have them, he said.

Montreal's transit authority is providing free masks to commuters at different Metro stations, with the goal of distributing 1.5 million by the fall

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante wants wearing masks to become a "social norm," but it is not a requirement on the bus or Metro.

Wearing masks will be required in indoor public spaces in Côte Saint-Luc as of July 1. It is mandatory elsewhere in the world, such as in the state of New York and on public transit in England.

In Ontario, masks will become mandatory on public transit in Ottawa on Monday, and Toronto plans to implement the same measure next month.

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