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Quebec becomes first province to make masks mandatory in enclosed public places

Click to play video 'First day of mandatory masks in enclosed public spaces in Quebec' First day of mandatory masks in enclosed public spaces in Quebec
WATCH: Saturday marked the first day Quebecers were forced to wear masks in indoor public places. The new directives apply to everyone over the age of 12. Children under of those with medical conditions preventing them from wearing face coverings are exempted from the rule. Kwabena Oduro reports.

Quebec becomes the first province in Canada to require mask-wearing in all indoor public spaces on Saturday as cases rise again with 158 new infections recorded in the last 24 hours.

The province has seen 57,300 coronavirus cases and 5,654 deaths. Quebec public health authorities noted two additional deaths were recorded since Friday and five others occured before July 10.

The new directive, which applies to people aged 12 and older, comes as Quebecers begin their two-week construction holiday.

For some Quebecers, it did not hinder the shopping experience.

“Once you have it on and you’re shopping, you kind of forget about it,” real estate broker Mark-Andre Martel said.

Mask have been in their procedures since April, Martel said.

“We only allow one buyer at a time, they must always wear mask and gloves at all times,” said Martel.

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Damps barbershop in the borough of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce made masks mandatory when they got the green light to open on June 15.

“When it comes to wearing a mask, it wasn’t hard to enforce but it’s definitely something that’s new to people; not everyone is used to wearing a mask. Having this law in place will make it standard for everyone,” barber Kevin Reggie Joseph said.

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 READ MORE: Quebec will not close bars as Legault says recent rise in coronavirus cases due to private gatherings

Businesses can be subject to fines between $400 and $6,000 if customers are caught violating the new rule.

“Policing is not our job, that is a different profession. Our profession is to be retailers, not to police,” said Marc Fortin, president of the Retail Council of Canada. “We are looking forward to an update from the government. On Aug. 1st, they will come out with measures for costumers in general and the population. It will help the retailers enforce the rules.”

Authorities noted a 12-case decrease in hospitalizations on Saturday bringing the total to 248. Among those hospitalized, 15 are in intensive care.

On Thursday, according to the latest available data, Quebec conducted 15,258 tests. Long line-ups at screening clinics were noticed across the island of Montreal this week after authorities urged those who have attended bars since Canada Day to get tested.

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Premier François Legault said the province will not be shutting down bars again for the time being, despite the increase in daily cases.

During Friday’s press conference, Legault said he consulted with public health authorities and that the recent surge in new COVID-19 infections appears to be stemming from private parties and not from bars.

Restaurant and bars will have a bigger challenge monitoring their clients.

“They have to be extra vigilant in terms of looking out after their customers because they need to make sure whenever they are moving around they have their masks,” says Gopinath Jeyabalaratnam, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

 READ MORE: New COVID-19 screening clinics open in Montreal after long lines, cases linked to bars

People with a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask or face covering, which also includes individuals who are unable to put it on or take it off by themselves, are exempted from wearing masks.

“What shop owners need to know is that they should tell their customers to wear a mask but once they say they have a medical condition they can’t say anything,” says Jeyabalaratnam.

Following the announcement of the mask rule, some Quebecers have joined protests against the measure, arguing the government shouldn’t have a blanket policy when most regions outside Montreal weren’t deeply affected by COVID-19.

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But Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, responded by stating all Quebecers should get in the habit of wearing masks to prepare for a possible second wave of the virus in the fall.

 — With files from The Canadian Press and Global’s Kalina Laframboise