On July 18, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a mask became mandatory in all indoor public places in Quebec in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Over the ensuing weeks and months, face coverings transformed people's daily lives.
The public health measure could be lifted in August if the government's vaccination targets are met and the epidemiological situation is favourable. However, the masks are not going to disappear from our reality, according to immunologist André Veillette in a Sunday interview with RDI.
"Even if we will wear them less and less often, there will still be a place to use them," he explained, adding that they will be necessary for people who are not vaccinated. "It is going to be important that they protect themselves when there is an increase in cases of infection."
Dr. Veillette believes that wearing a mask has become a healthy habit in many situations.
"Many people will probably wait to get rid of it completely, especially in indoor settings like grocery stores, theaters or movie theaters," he said.
Doctors also note that the face covering has helped protect Quebec's health system. For Dr. François Marquis, if public health had had to manage influenza and the coronavirus at the same time, the consequences would have been catastrophic.
"People don't realize how beneficial the mask has been in all the hardships of COVID-19," he said in an interview.
A symbol of the pandemic
For his part, Dr. Veillette recalls that in addition to having protected people from other viruses, wearing a mask has since become a simple and socially acceptable practice.
"In flu seasons, it wouldn't be such a bad idea for people to make a habit of wearing masks," the immunologist said.
Still, one year to the day after Premier François Legault introduced a measure to make face coverings mandatory, many say they are tired.
Beyond the mask, which has become a near-universal symbol of the pandemic, the population is especially tired of the health crisis, according to Dr. Veillette
"We must be careful," the doctor said. "We're not yet out of the woods because of the Delta variant. We may be between two waves, so we must not drop the masks prematurely."
Wearing a mask was a formality for some, but for others, the directives were never heeded. Many anti-mask protests regularly made headlines throughout the past year and have not tailed off.
A gathering of about 200 people took place on Sunday afternoon in Montreal to denounce the public health measure.