MONTREAL -- The province’s top public health official is asking Quebecers to avoid using masks for preventive purposes in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Horacio Arruda said face masks need to be reserved for health care workers and patients with the virus.

In a video published Wednesday, Arruda called on Quebecers to instead focus on the prevention instructions issued by the Quebec government, including handwashing and social distancing.

Using a mask for prevention, he said, risks causing a shortage within the health care network.

“I am often asked if people should wear a mask all day. The answer is that the mask is not a means of preventing infection in the community. It is reserved for care. If you want to protect yourself, it’s not the mask that matters. Wash your hands instead," he said.