QUEBEC CITY -- The Legault government has suffered a 'legal slap in the face' over N95 masks and must now make an official apology to caregivers, says Quebec Solidaire (QS).

According to QS spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the Administrative Labour Tribunal (TAT) has ruled that the government has failed to protect caregivers.

More than 41,000 health-care workers have contracted COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic and 18 have died of the disease.

In his decision handed down Tuesday evening, TAT judge Philippe Bouvier recognized that the precautionary principle should have been applied given the significant risk of airborne transmission of the virus.

He ordered the institutions to provide all care professionals with an N95 mask, whether they are in a hot or warm zone, and as soon as a resident is suspected to be or is infected with COVID-19.

For months, Quebec limited the use of the N95 mask, even going so far as to formally prohibit its use, except for employees providing medical procedures generating aerosols (IMGA).

The government did an about-face on Feb. 9 and made the N95 mandatory in hot zones.

"It chose to violate the precautionary principle," said Nadeau-Dubois. "The political decision to poorly protect caregivers was made by (Health Minister) Christian Dubé, (his predecessor) Danielle McCann and (Premier) François Legault."

"These are the people who need to be held accountable, these are the people who need to apologize," he said. 

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2021.