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No short-term plans to remove Quebec’s mask mandate: health ministry

Quebec says it doesn't have plans to remove its mask mandate for the moment. Monday July 19, 2021. Sylvain Trudeau / Global News

Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the province’s COVID-19 mask mandate, with a reduction in cases and an increase in vaccination rates.

But if you were hoping to ditch mask-wearing indoors soon, you may have to wait. Quebec health officials say there are no plans to remove the mandate.

“For now, taking the current epidemiological situation into account, and the presence of the Delta variant in Québec, removing the mandate to wear a mask in public places is not being considered for the short term,” Robert Maranda, Quebec’s Health Ministry spokesperson, wrote to Global News.

Read more: COVID-19: Quebec to drop capacity limits for stores, relax social distancing rules

Currently, the government orders people to wear masks at work and indoors in public places.

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Only those who are considered fully immune — having either received two doses of the COVID-19 shot or one dose after having battled the disease — can gather maskless indoors at private homes.

Last May, when outlining the province’s reopening plan, health officials had set the end of August as a potential date for when people could stop wearing masks indoors.

But the province says that masks are an effective tool to keep the disease at bay.

Read more: Quebec to do away with curfew as province unveils COVID-19 reopening plan

“Face coverings are proven prevention tools. They act as a physical barrier that avoids the spread of the virus through aerosol in public places,” Maranda told Global News.

COVID-19 infections weren’t the only thing that was avoided.

According to Infection, Prevention and Control Canada, there was virtually no flu season last winter, one of the top 10 causes of death in the country.

“Masks may not be mandatory but they still are helpful,” said Dr. Christopher Labos, a cardiologist with a degree in epidemiology.

“Come the fall, when the weather gets colder, when people spend more and more time indoors, we could see a resurgence in cases and then masks may become more important again, so this is going to be a dynamic process.”

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Read more: Quebec to implement COVID-19 vaccine passport system by September

Dr. Labos says that people who have pre-existing medical conditions, or are at risk of complications if they catch a cold or the flu, can also benefit from wearing a mask in public settings every flu season.

“I think you’re going to see a shift in the way that people in North America look at masks and probably bring us much more in line with the rest of the world,” Dr. Labos explained, referencing to places such as Asia, where people wear masks when feeling sick as a courtesy to others.

Read more: How health measures aimed at COVID-19 routed the flu in Canada this season

Montrealer Marcus Antoine says he will keep wearing his mask, even if the mandate is lifted.

“It makes you feel like a superhero. Superheroes wear masks,” Antoine said. “Better safe than sorry.”

Logan Stephenson agrees. “I feel protected,” Stephenson said. “I really like the masks, I think it’s good.”

But some say that when allowed, they will only wear their masks if necessary.

“If I don’t feel right, if I feel like a cold or something like that, absolutely,” said Rick Bois D’ Enghien.

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“I don’t want to hurt somebody else, obviously. But other than that, no. I won’t wear a mask.”

As of Monday, 72.6 per cent of Quebecers have received at least a first dose of their COVID-19 shot, while 48 per cent are considered fully vaccinated.

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COVID-19: Canada announces plan to reopen the border to non-residents – Jul 19, 2021

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