Mask mandate not coming back to Quebec: Legault

Mask mandates will not be returning to the province anytime soon despite the rise in COVID-19 and other hospitalizations putting a massive strain on Quebec’s public health system, Quebec’s premier said last week in Quebec City.

There is "no question" of reintroducing a mask mandate for public spaces, Premier Francois Legault said on the sidelines of a caucus meeting of his MNAs last week in Quebec City, as the Coalition Avenir Québec prepares for the next session of the National Assembly.

At the same time, however, Quebec’s Public Health recommended wearing masks around vulnerable people, such as seniors and those with chronic health conditions, as well as if people have any symptoms of illness.

Masks are still required in some healthcare institutions.

But the mask mandate for indoor public spaces – which was dropped May 14 – will not be returning, the premier confirmed. Health minister Christian Dube also recommended wearing masks in “crowded” public spaces to curb the rate of infection of respiratory infections.

Dube, alongside Public Health director Dr. Luc Boileau, also recommended regular handwashing, and instructed anyone with a fever to stay home and wear a mask until their symptoms disappear.

"It's time to reunite with our good habits," he said.

That’s because the province’s taxpayer-funded healthcare system is “historically overrun,” said an open letter to La Presse published over the weekend and signed by a number of Quebec pediatricians, who said they have never seen so many pediatric patients in their lives. In the letter, they put the blame on an increase in the cases of the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19.

The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Montreal Children's Hospital has been full for weeks. Single-patient rooms have been converted to two-patient rooms for children with the same viral illnesses.

Physical space is running out and staffing shortages are serious.

Quebec started to roll out its free flu-shot program to select groups: People with certain chronic illnesses; pregnant women in the second or third trimester; people ages 60 and up; kids between six and 23 months and household members/caregivers of children under six months at higher risk of hospitalization.

There are currently no plans to expand eligibility, according to health officials.

"We have covered all the people who are really at risk," said Boileau, adding that the program could be extended to other groups should the situation require it.

Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase