Quebec will extend its mask mandate in public spaces again — this time until mid-May — as the province continues to deal with the sixth wave of COVID-19.
Luc Boileau, the province’s interim public health director, announced the decision Thursday to prolong the requirement by another two weeks. Masks will also remain mandatory on public transit.
“We will follow the situation closely,” Boileau said during a news conference in Montreal. “We will be thrilled to reconsider it if the situation improves substantially in the coming days.”
He said that COVID-19 transmission and pandemic-related hospitalizations appear to be slowing in Quebec, but overall the number of patients isn’t dropping yet.
Despite that, Boileau said the progression of the sixth wave remains uncertain — and that the province needs to be careful. That is why public health officials recommended keeping the mask mandate.
“We’ve recommended it because there is still a real pandemic situation in Quebec right now,” he said. “It appears to not be as worse as a week ago, but it seems to be very heavy.”
Boileau said the transmission of the virus is still high among seniors, especially in the Greater Montreal area. The province is also dealing with a new flu season and that could put additional pressure on emergency rooms.
The extension comes as the province’s mask mandate was set to expire at the end of the month.
The Quebec government has largely lifted most health measures in recent months, with officials saying it was time to find a way to live with the novel coronavirus. In March, it nixed its vaccine passport system and eased capacity restrictions for businesses.
The mask mandate, however, was supposed to be in place until April. The government had previously announced that face coverings would no longer be required in the majority of public places by that time.
The date to remove masks was then pushed to the end of this month due to the evolving sixth wave of the pandemic.
Quebec and Prince Edward Island are the only two provinces still requiring people to mask indoors, with the latter having extended its mandate until April 28.
— with files from The Canadian Press