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Coronavirus: STM to provide masks to commuters as Montreal’s reopening looms

Coronavirus: STM to provide masks to commuters as Montreal reopening looms
WATCH: The Société de transport de Montreal, the city’s public transit agency, has announced a series of measures aimed at keeping employees and passengers safe as it prepares for an increase in ridership with the schools and some businesses on May 25. Global’s Phil Carpenter

Montreal’s public transit authority will hand out masks to commuters as it braces for the reopening of the city amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) unveiled its plan on Friday for how the city’s buses and metros will work once commuters gradually head back to school and work in the Greater Montreal area.

As part of its strategy, the STM is strongly encouraging all commuters to wear masks — but it won’t be mandatory. The organization will give masks to the public and staffers in hopes of curbing the spread of COVID-19.

“We all have a role to play,” said Luc Tremblay, director general of the STM.

READ MORE: Quebec delays reopening of Montreal schools, daycares and stores as coronavirus cases rise

STM chairperson Philippe Schnobb said the public transit authority will not make masks obligatory since it would require putting more measures in place.

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“Our inspectors, our police officers have other things to do than be a mask police,” Schnobb said.

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Under the plan, riders will have to enter the front of buses and must exit from the back. Bus drivers will also begin accepting fares again, according to the STM.

The STM’s measures come as the provincial government hopes to reopen elementary schools, daycares and businesses in Montreal on May 25.

As the reopening date looms and Montreal continues to grapple with a high number of cases, the public transit authority is asking the public to stay home if they are sick and to practise social-distancing measures. People who can work from home should do so.

Rigorous cleaning and disinfection measures will also be maintained, according to Tremblay.

“We also have hired maintenance employees, and the STM has slowed down 60 projects in order to have extra human resources be redeployed to cleaning activities,” he said.

READ MORE: Official opposition calls for mandatory face coverings on Montreal public transit

Under the plan, the STM has boosted the frequency of its metro system back to its regular service and will offer the same number of buses that are usually on the road in the summer. However, officials say they expect ridership will remain lower than usual as the pandemic continues.

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The STM is looking at other measures, including implementing more ways for commuters to use debit and credit cards instead of money in metro stations.

The organization also hopes provide an indication of ridership so that users can see how packed or empty buses and metros are and plan their commutes.

In Quebec, there are more than 36,000 cases of COVID-19 as of Friday. The island of Montreal has more than 18,000 cases to date, which represents about half of the province’s infections.

Navigating a return to work amid the pandemic
Navigating a return to work amid the pandemic