Quebec extends mask mandate as new COVID-19 wave spreads in Canada
MONTREAL — Quebec will require masks to be worn in indoor public spaces for all of April, delaying a plan to relax the measure by the middle of the month as it and other Canadian provinces face a new COVID-19 wave, a top public health official said on Tuesday.
The province, the second most populous in Canada, will become one of the last parts of North America to continue a mask mandate in public indoor places like stores, with health officials projecting a rise in cases and hospitalizations.
“We do not expect the mask will be needed after the month of April,” Dr. Luc Boileau, the province’s interim public health director, told reporters. “But we have to wait and see how the progression of this wave will be.”
Prince Edward Island said on Tuesday it would extend a mask mandate for public places in that province until April 28.
Much of Canada is facing a fresh COVID-19 wave just as authorities eased measures to curb the spread of the virus, which included a mask mandate for most public areas.
Quebec last month announced a plan to end mandatory masking, but public health officials changed their recommendations due to the new wave of infections, Boileau said.
“It has shown us that it’s able to move the number of cases very high,” he said. “And the impact of it on the community and in fact on the health system, namely the hospital capacity, is something really worrying.”
Quebec on Tuesday reported 1,479 people were hospitalized for COVID-19, up 72 compared from the previous day.
The province also added 2,615 new cases, although health officials and studies suggest infections are underestimated due to the widespread use of home tests.
Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, dropped its mask mandate for all areas except healthcare settings and public transit last month. Its health ministry said on Tuesday that local health units can impose their own measures, and the province’s hospitals can deal with the surge, although Ontario’s Science Advisory Table is revising its modeling.
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