The Quebec government will lift the mask mandate in elementary and high school classrooms starting March 7.
A spokesperson for Premier François Legault confirmed the decision to drop the COVID-19 health restriction Tuesday, but told Global News the announcement will be made the following day at a news conference by the province’s public health department.
Masks will still be mandatory for students when they are in common areas and on school buses.
The move comes as most schools prepare for their upcoming week-long break next month. Students in the Montreal, Outaouais, Abitibi, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean and Côte-Nord regions will be back in class after break on March 7.
Schools in other parts of the province, meanwhile, have a later break. Those students will not have to wear masks in class when they return on March 14.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said he feels comfortable with lifting the restriction in schools, citing a drop in pandemic-related hospitalizations and an improved health network system compared to a month ago.
Dubé also said the context of the pandemic is “very different” from this time a year ago. He pointed to high vaccination rates in Quebec, as well as high infection rates during the Omicron-fuelled surge.
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“People are vaccinated or they already had it (COVID-19) so the recommendation is in an environment where we feel comfortable,” he told reporters in Quebec City.
Dr. Luc Boileau, interim director of Quebec public health, is expected to unveil the details of the announcement Wednesday.
The Quebec government is in the midst of easing measures aimed at clamping down on the pandemic, with businesses reopening throughout February. The vaccine passport is also set to expire mid next-month.
Put an end to state of emergency, opposition parties say
As more health restrictions are eased, Quebec’s opposition parties called again for the Legault government to lift the state of emergency order.
“We’re talking about removing the mask, removing the passport,” Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said. “There is no reason why we should be in an emergency state right now with this government.”
Last week, the province renewed its public health state of emergency order for the 100th time since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
The opposition parties have demanded the government stop giving itself emergency powers. The Legault has said the government intends to lift the state of emergency in a few weeks.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Québec solidaire co-spokesperson, said the premier needs to make a choice.
“He wants, on one side, to say: There is still a crisis, so I need the state of emergency, but, on the other side, he is saying: I will be no longer giving press conferences about that, dealing of the crisis,” Nadeau-Dubois said.
“So, if there is no crisis any more and he doesn’t want to do those press conferences, that’s his choice, but then he should lift the state of emergency.”