Quebec premier defends handling of outdoor mask rule, COVID-19 vaccination sites

Quebec Premier Francois Legault delivers remarks during a news conference in Montreal on Thursday, April 8, 2021. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Quebec Premier François Legault is defending his decision to announce on social media changes to a public health measure aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

The Facebook post, which was issued late Wednesday afternoon, outlined the details of the province’s recent directive of wearing masks outdoors.

“It was a question of rapidity,” he told reporters at the provincial legislature Thursday.

Legault said he wanted to give the public precisions about the new rule, which has created confusion over when a mask is required when outdoors. With no press conference about the pandemic planned, the premier turned to social media to get his message across.

“I think the text was clear,” he said. “Lots of people called me and said it was clear.”

READ MORE: Quebec changes outdoor mask rule aimed at controlling COVID-19 spread

Under the latest changes, people do not have to wear masks outdoors if they are able to physically distance. Masks are also not required during golf and tennis games.

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“What’s important to understand is that the mask is obligatory when we can’t respect a two-metre distance,” Legault said Thursday.

The latest measure is meant to keep the public safe, Legault said, saying that the transmission of the virus is possible while outside.

“The British variant is very contagious,” Legault said. “It’s easier than ever to catch COVID even if we’re young.”

Prior to the changes Wednesday, the outdoor mask requirement garnered criticism from the opposition at the national assembly. Both the Liberals and Quebec solidaire both took aim at the Legault government for not properly explaining the new measure to the public.

On Thursday, Legault said he was doing his best to respond to an evolving situation and that he changed the rules as soon as he realized some of them were impractical.

“I’m not perfect, like all Quebecers,” he said.

No plans to change vaccine strategy

Quebec’s premier also says there is no need to change the province’s vaccine strategy despite reports of empty walk-in vaccine clinics in the Montreal area.

Legault told reporters that he is pleased with how the vaccine rollout is going in the province, including at the walk-in clinics offering the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged 55 to 79.

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The province gave more than 67,700 vaccine doses Wednesday, and more than 19,000 were of the AstraZeneca vaccine, he added.

Legault said the province isn’t getting enough doses to be able expand vaccine access to more groups for the moment and assured the public that no vaccine will be wasted.

Click to play video: 'Quebec’s new mask rules leaves many people scratching their heads'
Quebec’s new mask rules leaves many people scratching their heads

With files from The Canadian Press

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