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How Quebec’s new mandatory masks rule works

Effective now, masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces across the province. The new measure is kicking in as Quebec witnesses a slow but steady increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

“It’s better to wear a mask than to be confined at home,” said Premier François Legault as he made the announcement last Monday.

“It’s not fun wearing a mask, but it’s essential.”

The regulation applies to everyone aged 12 and up, although Legault said even children as young as two could be encouraged to wear a mask — either a certified medical face covering or a handcrafted one, as long as it covers the nose and mouth.

Here are the answers to some of your questions about when exactly the rules apply and how they will be enforced.

Can I wear a face shield instead?

No. The Quebec government says a face shield may not be worn instead of a mask or cloth face covering in places where they are mandatory.

Do I need to wear a mask in stores or in offices?

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The Quebec government has downloadable posters in French and English on its public health website, as well as printable information sheets in 21 other languages. (Government of Quebec)

Employees in office buildings must wear masks in all areas where physical distancing is not possible, including common areas like hallways and elevators.

Once you are at your work station, you may remove your mask.  

You must wear a mask in all stores that are at least partly enclosed.

People working in customer service are being asked to wear a mask with a clear window in the mouth area, to help communication with those who are deaf or who have intellectual disabilities.

How about in bars or restaurants?

Drinking a pint while wearing a mask sounds like a nearly impossible task. But that’s exactly what the Quebec government wants you to do in enclosed bars and restaurants, if you’re moving around and not able to keep a two-metre distance from others. 

If you are sitting down and staying put, you may take off your mask. The mandatory mask rule does not apply on uncovered terrasses, but the Health Ministry still strongly recommends people wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible. 

Will students have to wear masks in school?

The Quebec government hopes to have students back in classrooms this fall. Children 12 and up must wear a mask when they are moving around the classroom and in the hallways. If they are seated and respecting physical-distancing rules, they may take off their masks. Children under the age of 12 do not have to wear a mask.

Will I have to wear a mask at my place of worship?

A mask must be worn at all times while in churches, synagogues, mosques and temples, particularly because of the danger of coronavirus spread from singing, which often accompanies a religious service.

What about working out at a gym?

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Gym members work out at Delta Train Liberty Village in Toronto on July 10. In Quebec, starting Saturday, masks need not be worn while working out but must be on in changing rooms, corridors and all common spaces. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

If you are maintaining a two-metre distance from others, you don’t need to wear a mask while working out. But masks are mandatory in hallways, bathrooms, changing rooms and other common spaces. 

If you’re doing indoor sports or activities, like dancing or martial arts, you must abide by physical-distancing rules all times. Wearing a mask is highly recommended during low-intensity activities. However, a mask is not recommended when practising moderate or high-intensity activity.

Are masks mandatory in museums and art galleries?

Masks are mandatory at all times in museums and art galleries.

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A woman wears a face mask as she visits the Museum of Contemporary Art on June 24. Masks are now mandatory at all times in galleries and museums in Quebec. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press )

How about on public transit?

Masks have been mandatory on public transit in Montreal since July 13. Montreal’s transit authority, the STM, says inspectors are handing out reusable masks, and riders without one can also go to a ticket booth to ask for a mask. 

Who is expected to enforce these rules?

Business owners are responsible for applying the new regulations in their stores, restaurants, offices and recreational centres. If they fail to comply, they could face fines between $400 and $6,000.

Police will be issuing these fines, and Quebec’s workplace health and safety board, the CNESST, will deploy over 100 inspectors in all regions of Quebec to visit bars and restaurants and make sure the health guidelines are being followed.

What happens if you don’t comply?

As of Aug. 1, people who refuse to wear a mask could also be fined. 

Are there any exemptions?

People with medical conditions such as serious cardio-respiratory problems will be exempted, as will children under the age of 12. Those who are unable to remove their mask without the help of another person are also exempt.

No certificate proving a medical condition will be necessary — in a statement to CBC, the Health Ministry  said it “trusts in people’s good judgment.” 

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