Quebec premier clarifies mask-wearing requirement after pressure from opposition
QUEBEC CITY -- Quebec's premier has once again clarified the rules around mask wearing outdoors after opposition parties accused him of confusing the public over when and where they are required.
Some of the new measures were announced in a press release from Francois Legault's office late last week when Quebecers were told that any outdoor activity required a face mask.
On Wednesday afternoon, the premier posted a statement to his Facebook page to explain the new measure.
“I therefore asked to specify the decree so that this obligation only applies to situations where it can be difficult to respect the two metres distance at all times with people who do not live with us,” the statement read.
That means that activities such as tennis or golf -- or sitting in a park -- do not require a face mask as long as you maintain a distance of two metres from someone not in your household.
He also clarified that couples who do not live together do not need a face mask outdoors. The same goes for people who live alone and join one other family bubble, as well as for people who go for physically distanced walks.
The face mask requirement sparked much debate from his opponents who had accused the premier of announcing new guidelines without properly explaining them.
Before Legault issued his statement Wednesday, the co-spokesperson of Québec solidaire, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, demanded an explanation.
"You have the right to kiss your partner at night at home, but during the day, if you want to take a walk, you must wear a mask outside," said Nadeau-Dubois.
"I have a hard time understanding this directive."
The measure is "very hard to follow," Nadeau-Dubois said earlier Wednesday. "I don't think it's been sufficiently justified."
He asked Quebec City to explain "why it is important to do it, what data justifies it, what type of transmission we want to curb, and in what type of circumstances it can be dangerous."
The day before, the director of public health for Quebec, Dr. Horacio Arruda, had acknowledged that the measure could seem "inconsistent."
He said that no "controlled study" supported the wearing of the mask outside, but that, according to him, it is possible to be contaminated by droplets, even outside.
This statement comes after a year of the pandemic, where Quebecers were told: "Outside, the risk of contamination is much lower," noted Liberal leader Dominique Anglade.
"From one day to the next, we tell them that they have to wear a mask, and we do it with a press release," she said. "There is room for clarification."
Premier Francois Legault said Tuesday that he was not aware of the measure, which is why he did not explain it at a press conference.
"Under the circumstances, Dr. Arruda should have raised his hand and taken the time to properly inform the population," said the leader of the Parti Quebecois, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.
"This was not done," he said.
The opposition parties reiterated their confidence in public health Wednesday, however, they urged Quebecers to continue to respect the requirement to wear masks outdoors.
-- With files from The Canadian Press