Wearing a mask in public places will remain required in April

Clara Descurninges, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — Quebecers will have to continue wearing masks in public places and on public transit for some time to come.

The Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, indicated Tuesday in a press release “that following a recommendation from Public Health, the wearing of masks in public places will be maintained beyond mid-April”.

The press release does not give an expected date for the withdrawal of the measure.

For his part, the acting national director of public health, Dr. Luc Boileau, expects to maintain this recommendation for “the whole month of April”, he indicated Tuesday morning during a conference of press in Quebec.

He did not come forward on a lifting date, saying he was waiting to see how the sixth wave evolves. “The projections of the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services predict that there will be further increases in cases and increases in hospitalizations over the coming weeks,” he recalled.

“We have no intention of recommending to the government to add measures like the closures of anything, he tempered. I think we can appeal to the civic sense and the collaboration of the population.”

Quebec is one of only two jurisdictions in North America (the other being Prince Edward Island) that still maintains face covering requirements. Asked about this, Dr. Boileau replied that he is “in contact with other public health leaders (…) and there are several who would like to put these measures forward again” .

The Ministry of Health on Monday recorded an increase of 72 hospitalizations linked to the virus, compared to the previous day. The total thus rises to 1,479. However, only 598 of these patients, or less than half, have COVID-19 as their admission diagnosis.

The number of cases in intensive care remains stable, at 69 patients. 48 of them, or more than two-thirds, have COVID-19 as their main diagnosis.

4 doses for ages 60 and over

Access to the fourth dose, currently offered to people aged 80 and over and vulnerable people, will be expanded. Those aged 70 and over will be able to make an appointment to obtain it from Wednesday, while those aged 60 and over will be able to do so from April 11.

“Three quarters of the people in our hospitals (who have COVID-19) are people over 60,” explained Dr. Boileau.

Public health does not currently plan to recommend expanding access to this dose to the entire population, since it was vaccinated later than the priority groups. “Data shows there may be a decline in effectiveness within five to six months” after the injection, and that a booster should only be offered “to people who are beyond three months” , argued the clinical expert in support of the scientific management of the pandemic of the Ministry of Health, Jean Longtin, during the press conference.

In doing so, “there will surely be a vaccination campaign in the fall”.

Dr. Boileau also invited people who have not yet received a third dose of vaccine to make an appointment to receive it.

This third dose is very effective in preventing serious forms of the disease, he recalled.

Although a large proportion of Quebecers aged five and over received their first (91%) and second (87%) injections, the booster dose did not enjoy the same popularity and was taken by only the half (53%) of the eligible population, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Health.

Living with COVID-19

Dr. Boileau made a point of emphasizing that learning to live with the virus does not mean abandoning all precautions.

Noting that “we see that there are people who pay less attention to the situation”, he recalled that “the pandemic is not over”.

He also repeated that even if the period of isolation at home is five days, “the period when you can be contagious is ten days. (…) We must remain very vigilant in this context”.

During days six to ten, “if you don’t have a fever, if you don’t have symptoms, you can start doing certain activities again, but this is not the time to go to restaurants, to see shows or doing sporting activities with others.”

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This article was produced with the financial support of the Meta Fellowships and The Canadian Press for News.

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