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'Time to reunite with our good habits': Masks strongly recommended again in Quebec

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Quebec's health minister is strongly recommending people wear masks in busy public places as the province battles a "spicy cocktail" of viruses overwhelming hospitals: COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

The measure is not obligatory and the recommendation does not extend to schools and daycares.

It was one of three recommendations presented by Quebec public health officials at a Wednesday press conference.

Health Minister Christian Dube, accompanied by Public Health Director Dr. Luc Boileau, also recommended regular handwashing, and instructed anyone with a fever to stay home and wear a mask until their symptoms disappear.

"It's time to reunite with our good habits," he said.

INFLUENZA LOOMS, RSV SURGES

While the spread of influenza is currently under control, the numbers are expected to increase in the coming weeks.

"Unfortunately, and without surprise, today we're announcing that we're entering flu season, which could be more virulent this year," said Boileau.

Cases of influenza will "inevitably" rise, he added, as they have in Ontario.

Meanwhile, RSV cases have surged among children, pushing pediatric hospitals to the brink.

He noted that while COVID-19 typically endangers the older population, RSV targets the youngest, including infants.

Boileau urged parents of young children to be particularly careful, for example, when visiting family and friends with an infant.

'A CITIZEN RESPONSIBILITY'

When asked whether he believes Quebecers will wear masks based on recommendations alone, Dube said he has faith in the judgment of individuals.

"I think it's very clear for us that we didn't want to go towards the obligation," he said.

"It's really a citizen responsibility."

On Tuesday, Quebec Premier Francois  Legault said there was "no question" about making masks mandatory again.

The comments follow a public masking recommendation from Quebec's College of Physicians early this week.

FLU SHOT PROGRAM

Quebec's free flu vaccination program is currently available to select groups:

  • People with certain chronic illnesses
  • Pregnant people in the 2nd of 3rd trimester
  • People ages 60 and up
  • Children between six and 23 months old
  • Household members/caregivers of children under 6 months people at higher risk of hospitalization

There are currently no plans to expand eligibility, according to health officials.

"We have covered all the people who are really at risk," said Boileau, adding that the program could be extended to other groups should the situation require it.

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