mandatory masks ontario

Doug Ford says he won't make face masks mandatory in Ontario

Love or hate the idea of wearing a face mask when you shop, solid evidence has been generated to suggest that the precaution does at least partially help stop the spread of COVID-19 in some situations.

Canadian public health officials maintain that wearing a mask alone isn't enough to protect one's self or others from infection — washing your hands frequently, maintaining a distance of at least two metres and staying at home while ill remain the best ways to combat the highly-contagious virus.

Still, all three levels of government recommend wearing a mask or some sort of non-medical face-covering in settings where physical distancing can't be maintained, such as on public transit or indoors at supermarkets and other stores.

Al Jazeera reports that more than 50 countries worldwide have made the wearing of masks in public mandatory, some of them under the threat of steep fines for failing to cover their faces.

A number of businesses in Ontario have now rolled out policies that prohibit people from entering their premises without a mask. Most public transit agencies in the province similarly require passengers to cover their faces while riding or have announced plans to start doing so soon.

But to date, no such province-wide laws are in effect. Mask use is up to each individual and requiring the use of a mask is up to each store owner or public health region.

Hundreds of physicians, nurses and other "members of the medical sciences community in Canada" recently signed a letter asking Health Ministers and Chief Medical Officers from the provincial and federal governments to consider enacting regulations that would mandate mask use in all indoor spaces outside the home, on public transit and in crowd settings, for everyone in Ontario.

"We are respectfully requesting that strong consideration be given to the recommendation of mandatory mask policies to help protect more Canadians," reads the letter.

"In addition to current physical distancing measures and hand hygiene, masks are critical in order to ensure a safe reopening, prevent additional outbreaks, and save lives."

When asked during his daily press conference at Queen's Park on Tuesday about whether or not he'd consider putting such an order into place, Premier Doug Ford acknowledged the demand but said it wouldn't happen.

"We want to work with the retailers, we don't want to force anyone to do anything," said Ford. "I highly highly recommend when you go out, wear a face mask of some sort. It's as simple as that."

Ford said that he knows of at least two "big retailers" who are asking customers to wear masks in their stores and that he thinks "that's a good policy."

"You're going into a store? Wear a face mask of some sort," he said.

Ontario's Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, indicated similarly in that experts haven't said a mandatory order would be necessary.

"The guidance and recommendations we've received so far from public health experts is that physical distancing is still the most important rule to follow that we should continue to do that for the foreseeable future," she said Tuesday afternoon.

"Masks should be worn in situations where that’s not going to be possible."

Elliott said that, while every retailer has the right to ask that customers wear masks inside their stores, such a precaution is not mandatory — only recommended.

"Physical distancing is the most important rule," she explained. "The masking follows in situations where that is not possible."

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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