Quebec tweaks rules for outdoor mask-wearing – Montreal Gazette

Quebecers in red and orange zones must now wear masks outdoors during any activity involving even just one person from a different household unless they are seated two metres apart.

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As Quebec continues to grapple with increased COVID-19 case numbers and the spread of more transmissible variants, the Health Ministry has updated outdoor mask-wearing guidelines.

Quebecers in red and orange zones aged 10 and older must now wear masks during any outdoor activity involving even just one person from a different household.

“I understand that the measures change a lot, but the situation changes a lot too,” Premier François Legault said on Tuesday.

The initial rule was implemented last Thursday, but only applied when more than two people from different households were participating in an activity outdoors.

The Institut national de santé publique du Québec said last week that the province has not yet documented an increase in outdoor transmission and that the mask rule was being implemented as a preventive measure.

“Even if the risk of transmission outside is reduced, it is not non-existent,” the Health Ministry said on Tuesday. “This is all the more important with the high circulation of variants that are more contagious.”


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The ministry specified masks can be taken off only when people are seated two metres apart or if they’re participating in water sports.

“What public health tells us, if you are having a picnic, maximum eight (people), once you are seated two metres from each other, you do not need to wear a mask,” Legault said.

Quebec public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda said people have a hard time naturally maintaining distance, which is why removing masks is only allowed when seated.

He also acknowledged there is some incoherence to the rule, like asking a couple who live separately to wear masks while outdoors when they don’t have to wear them indoors, or asking people who play distanced sports, like golf, to mask up.

“Our main objective is not to annoy people, it’s to protect them right now,” Arruda said. “And we only have to look at how people behave on the street to understand why we added this element from the perspective of the variants.”


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The Health Ministry said public health is concerned that people have been forgetting “basic instructions” like the two-metre distancing rule, which applies at all times for those who don’t live together.

“With the arrival of warmer temperatures, many people are going outdoors,” the ministry said. “That’s very good news — being physically active and getting outside is good for your physical and mental health.”

In Montreal, police have been asked to focus on parks that attract crowds, with the goal of “educating” people about rules as the weather warms up.

“Parks are the backyards of Montrealers and it is normal that they want to take advantage of them,” said Geneviève Jutras, a spokesperson for Mayor Valérie Plante’s office. “We invite all citizens to visit their local parks and nature parks, not just Mount Royal, for example.” 


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Police handed out 1,005 tickets related to public health guidelines over the past week in Montreal, 538 of which were related to the curfew, though the force couldn’t say how many of them were given in parks.

“During the last weekend in particular, the SPVM was present on the ground and special attention was paid to highly frequented areas,” the force said. “The mandate of the officers was in particular to educate users of public spaces, including Jeanne-Mance, Mont-Royal, La Fontaine, Laurier and Old Montreal parks.”

On Tuesday, dozens of people were enjoying the weather by the canal near the Atwater Market.

Jessica and Vanessa, friends who were studying at a picnic table without masks, said they understand the measure in group settings but find it excessive otherwise.


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“I know she doesn’t leave her house, she knows I don’t leave mine,” Jessica said. “We’re part of our own bubble.”

The friends explained that their contacts are extremely limited.

“We’re in contact with no one except each other and the people who we live with,” Vanessa said. “If I become contaminated, the chance that I contaminate someone else is very weak.”

Nanor Froundjian, who was out by the canal taking photos for a class, said she doesn’t mind wearing a mask outdoors if it makes people feel more safe.

“Before the masks became mandatory indoors, people thought it was an outrageous thing, but now we see that it makes a difference to wear a mask — there’s a reason that we’re doing it — so it becomes more and more accepted,” she said. “I think we’re just going to adapt.”


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The Health Ministry also reminded Quebecers on Tuesday that gatherings on private property, including balconies, terrasses and backyards, are still prohibited in red and orange zones.

  1. People mask up outside a trendy coffee shop on St-Viateur St. in Montreal, on Wednesday, April 7, 2021.

    Quebec makes outdoor mask-wearing mandatory for group activities

  2. Quebec Premier François Legault speaks at a press conference on March 18, 2021.

    COVID-19 updates for Tuesday, April 13

  3. Young men are detained by Montreal police in downtown Montreal Monday, April 12, 2021. Protesters against COVID-19 restrictions set by the Quebec government were out after the 8 p.m. curfew.

    After targeting Old Montreal, anti-curfew protests shift to downtown core

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