The P.E.I. government should have had more patience and waited before lifting mandatory mask-wearing requirements to protect Islanders in the COVID-19 pandemic, says Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker.
Premier Dennis King announced the lifting of mandatory wearing of masks requirements in most indoor public spaces on Friday. Mask-wearing remains strongly recommended for people who are not fully vaccinated.
"This was a decision that came largely out of the blue," said Bevan-Baker on Island Morning, noting businesses only had about an hour to respond to the change.
"This just seems like an unnecessary, reckless decision … I'm just disappointed that we did not wait and have a little more patience."
Only about 30 per cent of Islanders are fully vaccinated, he noted, so a strong recommendation remains in place for a large majority of Islanders to continue to wear masks. Nova Scotia is not planning to lift mask mandates until 75 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, which is expected in September.
Green Party members started getting calls from concerned Islanders even before the briefing ended, Bevan-Baker said.
"They were confused and they were worried because some of them do not have full coverage," he said.
"A lot of front-line workers here in the service industry are younger people, and it's younger people who are not yet fully vaccinated."
Layers of defence against COVID-19
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison, also speaking on Island Morning, said the province made the decision based on the current epidemiology.
"We have one active case here, we're watching what's going on around the country with decreasing numbers of cases," said Morrison.
"It's part of that transition to move it from, really, population level approaches to more personal responsibility."
Masks are not the first line of defence against COVID, she said, but part of a basket of measures including physical distancing, handwashing, and restrictions at provincial borders to keep COVID-19 out.
She noted unvaccinated visitors to the province must self-isolate, and when the province opens to the rest of Canada on July 18 only fully-vaccinated people from outside Atlantic Canada will be able to come without self-isolating.
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