It will be mandatory to wear a face mask on public transit in Quebec beginning July 13, Premier François Legault announced Tuesday.
The new rule will apply to anyone over the age of 12. For children younger than that, wearing a mask is strongly recommended by the province, but not obligatory.
Following a two-week grace period — that is, after July 27 — transit officials will be required to bar access to users who refuse to wear a mask, Legault said.
But, he added, there will be no fines for people who disobey the new rule, nor will police be specifically tasked with enforcing it.
“We also need to count on the respect and solidarity of the population,” Legault said. “The goal is to respect other people.”
His government stopped short of making mask obligatory in other indoor public spaces, such as stores. That additional measure is being adopted by a growing number of jurisdictions amid concerns a new wave of infections could erupt sooner rather than later.
Toronto Mayor John Tory is pushing for his city to adopt a temporary bylaw making masks mandatory indoors, which he hopes to have in place by the time new rules for masks on his city’s public transit go in place next week.
Ontario’s Peel region, just outside Toronto, announced Tuesday it was making masks mandatory in stores and other indoor public spaces.
In the United States, 18 states have rules requiring a mask when physical distancing isn’t possible, such as at the grocery store or on public transit.
‘It has to become a social norm’
So far in Quebec only the Montreal municipality of Côte Saint-Luc has passed a bylaw making a mask mandatory in places of business.
Legault didn’t rule out the possibility that Quebec would eventually follow suit with a province-wide rule. He said the decision would be based on a number of factors, including how the COVID-19 situation evolves.
In recent weeks, the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths has trended downward across the province, even as lockdown measures continue to be lifted. Bars, spas and water parks were allowed to reopen last week.
The province’s public health director, Horacio Arruda, said regardless of whether it is mandatory to wear a mask inside a public space, Quebecers should nevertheless make it a habit.
“It has to become a social norm,” Arruda said, comparing it to taking one’s keys when leaving the home.