Masks mandatory inside public places starting Saturday

By Matthew McCully

As of Saturday, July 18 masks will be mandatory for anyone aged 12 years and up inside public places, which include restaurants, bars and retail shops.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault made the announcement during a press conference Monday although there had been rumours about the directive coming for weeks.
The onus will be on business owners to enforce the new rule, and they could face fines ranging from $400 to $6,000 if individuals are found in their establishments not wearing a mask.
Legault pointed out Quebec is first to implement a provincewide mandatory mask policy even though some municipalities in Quebec and other provinces had already started insisting masks be worn in public.
During the press conference, Public Health Director Horacio Arruda explained that the new rule applies to the public. As for employees, Arruda said there is a separate set of guidelines laid out by CNESST to follow involving not only masks, but also visors and gloves depending on the type of work, as well as the disinfection of workspaces.
As of Monday, masks were mandatory on all public transit. There is, however, a two-week grace period in place to help inform the population about the rule before it is strictly enforced.
The extension of the rule to all indoor public places coincides with the beginning of the construction holiday, when Legault said many Quebecers will likely be travelling to other regions.
“The virus doesn’t take a vacation,” Legault pointed out.
The premier added that in recent weeks, with the reopening of bars on June 25, there has been a slight increase in the number of daily cases of COVID-19 in the province and evidence of community transmission.
On Saturday, July 11 the public health department released an advisory recommending that anyone in the Montreal area who has been working at or frequenting bars since July 1 get tested for COVID-19. People who were contagious had frequented at least five different establishments in early July.
Last week the province tightened the rules slightly by telling bars to stop serving alcohol at Midnight and close at 1 a.m. instead of 3 a.m.
According to Legault, over 600 inspections were done in bars across the province over the weekend, and for the most part patrons were practicing social distancing.
Wearing a mask is easier that returning to confinement, Legault said, hoping Quebecers will be responsible and follow the rules. Legault also pointed out that the maximum number of people allowed at family gatherings whether inside or out, is still 10.
“We’re not going to put all of Quebec at risk because of a few big parties,” Legault said, adding this is not the time for big weddings and parties.
Quebec reported 100 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours bringing the total in the province to 56,621. In the Estrie Region, infections rose gradually in the last week bringing the total to 980, although no new cases were reported in the last day.
There are currently 305 patients in hospital due to COVID-19 in Quebec. Of those, 21 are in intensive care.
According to the Public Health Institute’s website 25,911 people have recovered from the virus.

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