Ontario may have largely ditched mandatory mask-wearing but Quebecers will likely have to keep their face-coverings handy for at least a few more weeks. Despite hopes that Quebec mask mandates might end earlier than originally projected, Interim National Public Health Director Dr. Luc Boileau said Wednesday the province will stick to its mid-April target.
Officials anticipate mask rules will persist beyond that date for public transit. In its original timeline, the government said mandatory masking in transit would end in May "at the earliest," but Boileau didn't provide a date on Wednesday.
"Quebec has always been careful in its decision making," he assured. "With what's happening in Europe and the [COVID-19] numbers that we have here, we want to maintain that caution."
Europe has seen an uptick in new infections in recent days. On March 23, Quebec reported more new cases than it had in weeks: 2,111. And because officially-recorded PCR tests aren't available to the general public, that's not the whole picture.
The public health director said he expected this increase as Quebec dropped measures, such as vaccine passports and capacity limits, in an effort to achieve "something of a return to normal," in his words.
Officials are nevertheless keeping an eye on the progression of BA.2, a so-called "sublineage" of the Omicron variant, which Boileau said was likely at least in part responsible for rising COVID-19 numbers in other countries.
He said BA.2 is more infectious than other variants but doesn't produce worse symptoms or mean people are more likely to be hospitalized.