Canadians asked to wear non-medical face masks to protect others

Cheryl Sanders
May 22, 2020

Tam told reporters Thursday that "this is quite a hard period" because people are getting worn out from isolating at home, which induces people to forget the core public health directives.

"We know there is more to do, and as we reopen, we know that citizens will continue to be extremely vigilant and careful about how they act because that is going to be a key part of keeping us safe moving forward", he said.

Tam said initially it was believed the novel coronavirus was only spreading from people showing symptoms.

The prime minister has unveiled what needs to be done across the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he prefers to keep two metres away from people. That understanding has changed, as it is now known people can transmit the virus days before symptoms show up.


She said that wearing a mask forces people to breath in and out "humid, hot breath" that can trigger asthma attacks and difficulty breathing. "It is not a recommendation, it is a permissive use, if you will".

With more aspects of society beginning to reopen, current testing rates are still lacking, particularly in Ontario and Quebec where the majority of current COVID-19 cases are. He took it off when he stood to speak. Tam said mandatory mask use across Canada doesn't make sense because the risk is far different in the Yukon or Prince Edward Island than it is in Montreal or Toronto.

However, she said lower levels of government could make masks mandatory.

She stressed that a face mask is not to replace other measures like physical distancing, handwashing and staying out of public places when you can. Everyone in Canada must follow the other important public health measures, like hand washing, physical distancing and stay home if at all symptomatic, and a mask is not a replacement for those measures.

The prime minister said he wears a mask while walking through the halls of Parliament but that when he sits down to debate, the two-metre distance between him and other MPs is reestablished and he removes the mask.


Face masks are risky to the health of some Canadians and problematic for some others.

Nanaimo's Dr. David Forrest, who specializes in infectious diseases and critical care, said countries where public mask usage has been mandated have been successful in controlling the spread of COVID-19.

As B.C. residents and businesses look to a re-open a semblance of life under the province's Phase 2 easing of restrictions, Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, offered a new directive officially recommending Canadians wear non-medical face masks in situations where physical distancing is not possible.

"What we are recommending is that if you can not social distance by six feet then you should wear a mask, but if it inhibits your breathing, then you should not wear a mask", she said.


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