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Coronavirus: Quebec ombudsman backs mandatory masks as petition calls on province to cancel rule

Petition to stop mandatory masks in Quebec
WATCH: As of Saturday, wearing a mask in all indoor public places will be mandatory. But as Global's Felicia Parrillo explains, not everyone is happy with the new measure.

Quebec’s decision to make masks obligatory in indoor public spaces to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus is reasonable, according to the province’s ombudsman.

After receiving a “high volume of requests” about the measure, the office issued a statement on Tuesday in support of the requirement.

“The Quebec ombudsman encourages mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces because the purpose of this measure is to better protect the health and safety of citizens during this health crisis,” the office said.

Earlier this week, Premier François Legault announced masks will be mandatory in enclosed public spaces beginning Saturday. Under the plan, all Quebecers over the age of 12 will have to wear a mask, but there are exemptions for people with specific medical issues.

READ MORE: Quebec makes masks mandatory in indoor public spaces starting July 18

The decision comes as municipalities and cities across the province have vowed to make the face coverings mandatory to contain COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

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Quebec has been hit hardest by the pandemic, with more than 56,000 cases and 5,600 deaths since the crisis first began in March. It leads the country in infections and fatalities.

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The mandatory masks measure has been met with mixed reaction. A now-removed online petition against the new regulation quickly gained steam since Legault’s announcement on Monday.

In an email to Global News, a spokesperson with Change.org said the platform decided to remove the petition because it considered it to be a “breach of standards” and a spread of misinformation.

“Petitions that spread discredited information, are likely to incite panic or which could cause harm are not allowed on the platform. We do allow petitions that responsibly debate scientific research or industry standards and which raise concerns without resorting to fear-mongering,” the statement said.

The authors of the petition had called on the premier to retract the measure, saying public health authorities and the government have contradicted themselves over the effectiveness of masks. They also claim “masks turn out to be vectors of the virus transmission because their use is often incorrect.”

READ MORE: Montrealers line up for coronavirus testing as bars remain source of concern in Quebec

The petition against obligatory masks garnered more than 57,000 signatures since it was launched on Monday.

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Legault, for his part, has said making masks mandatory in indoor public spaces will help prevent a surge in infections as the province reopens.

“It’s easier to wear a mask than to return to being confined,” Legault said.

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With files from the Canadian Press and Global’s Alessia Maratta