Quebec to announce the future of mask mandates on Tuesday
Quebecers will find out early this week whether mask requirements for public indoor spaces will be extended beyond April 15, as the province battles a sixth wave of infections.
Health Minister Christian Dube said on Sunday that Interim Public Health Director Luc Boileau will make the announcement on Tuesday.
"We just talked about it an hour ago and he's finalizing with all the regional health authorities," said Dube.
The province had hoped to do away with masking in public on April 15, but a resurgent COVID-19 virus, primarily the BA.2 variant, has forced public health officials to reconsider.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Matthew Oughton said the decision should come down to whether the benefits of wearing a mask outweigh the harms.
"There's lots of science to back up that masking works," he said. "Especially under the current context of having a lot of disease out there, the benefits are very, very large and the harms are very negligible. So, to my mind, it is a very easy straightforward decision."
Across the country, mask mandates have all either been lifted or will be later this week.
As of Thursday, Quebec will be the only place in Canada where masks are mandatory.
Oughton said that despite the contagious Omicron sub-variant, the days of lockdowns and closures are likely behind us. However, he said, masks are worth the discomfort they may cause to some.
"A large part of what's driving the current increase of cases in Ontario is not so much that it's BA.2 instead of BA.1 but it's the relaxation of some of these NPI's, including the relaxation of mask requirements," said Oughton.
Oughton added that governments should continue using tools that have the least amount of downside and most benefit like masks and vaccines.
"Right now, if you look at recent headlines, we are busy shutting down vaccination clinics. This is the last thing we should be doing," he said. "We still have almost half our population that need that third dose and we should be really pushing that as one of the major interventions."