MONTREAL -- It's been one year since Quebecers were first required to wear masks in indoor public spaces and, despite dwindling numbers of daily COVID-19 cases in the province, the regulation remains in place.

The province's mask mandate was first introduced on July 18, 2020, with significant fines being handed out to those who refused to comply. The mask mandate was also followed by numerous protests in the province against public health regulations connected to the pandemic.

Linda Pagani, a psychologist at the Universite de Montreal, said a year of wearing masks might have affected Quebecers in more subtle ways.

“A lot of people might feel it's conformity, people like to be autonomous, especially in our society,” she said. “But then there's the more important factor, which is... 70 per cent of our communication is facial. Because of that, we miss the whole part of facial expression that will make clear our position in our convesration. People walk away feeling frustrated.”

Pagani noted that, direct benefits aside, masks have provided other benefits.

“There's the collective message you're giving to people that we are in COVID and we are in a risk situation. That is a collective message (saying) that it's important we all comply,” she said. “The fact of the matter is, we are very reassuring when we wear a mask.”

While no exact date for the mask rule's lifting has been given, the Quebec government has indicated it plans to lift it once 75 per cent of the province's population has been fully vaccinated.