Quebec’s mandatory face-covering measure for indoor public places has largely been followed since it came into effect Saturday, but there has been some opposition to the COVID-19-related order from those who don’t want to wear one.
On Saturday, Quebec became the first province in Canada to bring about such a rule, which applies to people aged 12 and older. Some cities have similar rules in place on their territory.
“Assessment of the first day of compulsory wearing of the mask in closed public places: the vast majority of Quebecers respected the instructions,” Premier Francois Legault tweeted Sunday.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and public health authorities urging people to don a face-covering amid concerns about a second wave of the virus, several anti-mask protests took place across the province.
Those included a march Saturday in St-Georges, in the Beauce region south of Quebec City, and several dozen people gathered in front of Legault’s Montreal office on Sunday.
Videos have circulated online of people being ejected from stores after refusing to wear a mask, including one widely shared incident in Montreal where police officers physically tackled and removed a man from a Tim Hortons restaurant in the city’s east-end about on Saturday afternoon.
The man was charged with obstructing police work and released on a promise to appear.
Insp. Andre Durocher declined to go into specifics, but said it appeared to be an isolated incident invovling someone who wanted to make a statement.
“The case we saw yesterday was one, but there were many situations that didn’t go that far,” Durocher said.
“One thing to keep in mind when our officers are asked to intervene regarding these cases, the initial intervention is always one of awareness to try to get people to follow common sense.”
For now, businesses are expected to enforce the new rules and are subject to fines of between $400 and $6,000 if their customers are caught violating the directive.
Business groups have called on the government to shift those fines to consumers unwilling to abide by the rules.
Some of them protested in downtown Montreal on Sunday.
Antonio Pietroniro, 65, said there wasn’t a chance he’d wear a face covering and didn’t think they were necessary.
“Absolutely not. I’d rather stay home,” he said. “If it served a purpose, I’d be wearing one if it was really protecting against something.”
Alexandre Barriere, 29, called the measure “excessive.”
“I find it really excessive to tell a human being to deprive himself of his oxygen as much as possible when he must be free,” Barriere said.
Meanwhile, Quebec continued to see a rise in the number of infections, reporting 166 confirmed cases Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to 57,466.
The province also added one death for a total of 5,655 since the beginning of the pandemic.
The number of hospitalizations and intensive care cases both went up by three today, after several days of declines in both categories.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 19, 2020.
— with files from Jillian Kestler-D’Amours in Montreal.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press