Could we impose a mask to Quebec?

Pourrait-on imposer le port du masque au Québec?

Photo: Christmas Celis Agence France-Presse
In some regions of China, the port of the mask is mandatory in public transport.

Since Tuesday, the prime minister François Legault recommend “strongly” to Quebecers to wear a mask in public places, especially in the context where it is difficult to respect the rules of social distancing. But the government has not, for the moment, the intention to impose it on the citizens, even if a majority of them would support such a measure, according to a new survey.

“I request the people of Quebec, in Montreal and in the rest of Québec: when you leave the home, put a mask. If you go to see your mother, if you go into a store, or if you are going to take the bus, wear a mask. I would like to see as many Quebecers as possible everywhere in Quebec, wear the mask”, said Tuesday the prime minister, after being presented to the press daily, by carrying himself a mask.

Wednesday morning, during the first day of resumption of the work of the national Assembly, the liberal Party of Quebec is, however, gone a step further by asking the government to impose the wearing of mask in public transport, and this, throughout Quebec. The Parti québécois, for its part, called for the imposition of the mask in Montreal, the epicentre of the epidemic COVID-19. He believes that the government should at the same time financially support the City, in order to make the masks available for the entire population, regardless of social class.

In response, François Legault stressed during its press briefing that Quebec did not have enough masks, at the present time, to meet widespread demand. According to him, it would be “tens of millions of masks” to meet such a demand, in particular for the 500 000 users in the Montreal metro “in normal times”. “We are working very hard” to produce Quebec these “tens of millions of masks”, which could take “a few weeks”, he added. He believes that this will be possible, and has invited Quebecers to make their own mask craft.

The national director of public health, Horacio Arruda, has sued, claiming that the wearing of a mask is “an additional tool” that does not replace the important steps which are the containment and the rules of hygiene recommended day-after-day for several weeks.

Exceptional powers
Most of the experts quoted in the media of québec in the last day, felt that Quebec would have the right to impose this measure of protection against the spread of the coronavirus.

A point of view shared by Marie-Ève Couture-Ménard, associate professor at the Faculty of law of the University of Sherbrooke. It points out that article 123 of the Law on public health provides that, in the framework of the “state of health emergency”, the government may in particular order “the closure of educational institutions” and “another gathering place”, or even restrict travel between regions. All of these measures have been used since the beginning of the crisis, she says.

Mrs. Couture Ménard added that this article 123 also provides that the government may “direct any other action necessary to protect the health of the population”. This could include a requirement to wear a mask in public places, including public transport. “The government must demonstrate the necessity of such a measure to protect the population,” she adds, but “the public health Act does not require scientific evidence before the application of the measure”. In this case, Marie-Ève Couture-Ménard believes that “the precautionary principle” could very well apply, because of the urgency of the situation.

Quebecers favour
One thing is for certain, the Québécois seem to be willing to accept this new protection measure, the COVID-19. A survey of SOM-Cogeco unveiled Wednesday, reveals that 89 % of Quebecers would agree with the government if he was wearing a mask mandatory in public transport.

With respect to the obligation to wear the mask in the schools and commercial establishments, the survey conducted this week for the status of regional disparities. In the region of Montreal, 80 % of respondents are for the government to make masks compulsory in shops. This rate drops to 67 % in the Quebec city region and 65 % elsewhere in Québec. In regard to the compulsory wearing of masks in schools, the approval rate is 76% in the Montreal area, but 59% in that of Quebec.

Several regions of the world have imposed on the mask since the beginning of the pandemic. The wearing of a mask or a tissue covering nose, mouth and chin is required in the public space or in some public places in the following countries: Slovakia, Slovenia, spain, Czech Republic, Austria (supermarkets), some regions of China, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Israel, some provinces of Thailand and Venezuela.

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