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Coronavirus: Air travellers required to wear non-medical masks under new rules

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The federal government says that all air travellers must cover their nose and mouth with a non-medical mask to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The new measure comes into effect at noon on Monday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s office said in a statement Friday.

Anyone arriving or departing at a Canadian airport without a non-medical mask or other form of face covering will “not be allowed to continue on their journey.”

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“Canadians should continue to follow public health advice and stay at home if possible,” Garneau said. “However, if you need to travel, wearing a face covering is an additional measure you can take to protect others around you, especially in situations where physical distancing guidelines cannot be maintained.”

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Travellers will be required to wear the masks during screening, when directed by public health or airline officials, and other instances where maintaining physical distancing is impossible.

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The government is also encouraging travellers on ferries, buses and trains to wear masks.

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Where “feasible,” Transport Canada said ferry operators should tell passengers they need to cover their faces when they can’t keep an adequate distance away from others  — and that they could be denied boarding if they don’t comply.

On buses and trains, Transport Canada said passengers may be asked by the operator to cover their noses and mouths in situations where passengers can’t maintain sufficient space from each other.

Canadian health officials shifted gears on the issue of non-medical masks earlier this month after previously casting doubt on the value in doing do.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Wearing non-medical masks will help others but not you, Tam says

Canada’s top public health official, Dr. Theresa Tam, said that people who don’t have symptoms of the novel coronavirus can wear non-medical masks when in public as “an additional measure” to protect other people amid the pandemic.

There is growing evidence that people infected with COVID-19 are able to transmit the virus before they develop symptoms, she said.

Similarly, Tam added, there is emerging evidence that some people who have the virus but never develop symptoms are able to transmit the virus as well.

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“Wearing a non-medical mask, even if you have no symptoms, is an additional measure that you can take to protect others around you in situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, such as in public transit or maybe in the grocery store,” Tam said.

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The Public Health Agency of Canada stressed that homemade masks aren’t a substitute for physical distancing or hand-washing, and that they come with several limitations.

—With files from Beatrice Britneff, Global News