Canadians should wear masks to protect others when in public: Tam

Saturday, 23 May, 2020

"This will help us reopen and add another layer to how you go out safely", Tam said Wednesday in her daily briefing to Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measures are essential because COVID-19 remains a serious health threat and the economy can't fully recover until Canadians are confident any new outbreaks of the novel coronavirus will be contained, he said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has not formally recommended wearing masks and has said the evidence is inconclusive on whether people who are asymptomatic should wear them.

She said that wearing a mask forces people to breath in and out "humid, hot breath" that can trigger asthma attacks and difficulty breathing. Some patients may never show symptoms at all and can still spread the virus to others.

"The concept is one, I think, of reciprocal protection", Dr. Tam said.

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.

On Thursday, Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland held their tenth call with provincial and territorial leaders since the pandemic was declared, where the federal government's offer of taking the lead on a national testing and tracing strategy was discussed.

Alaska-based company Rapid Response PPE has developed face masks with clear shields so the deaf and hard of hearing can see facial cues and lip movement. He said he would take it off during the sitting, because he would be a suitable distance from any other MP. More than 50 countries have made wearing a mask mandatory. For example, some provincial public health authorities recommend that medical masks be exclusively reserved for use by health care workers and first responders.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday her department has been working with provinces to make sure they have the materials needed to meet their testing goals, including swabs, reagents, and people to do the work. Dr. Tam emphasized that wearing a non-medical face mask should be treated as supplemental to - and not a replacement for - other precautionary measures, including remaining two metres apart from others and handwashing.

"So it's not something you do instead of, but we should be, I believe, at this point, prepared to wear a non-medical mask in certain situations where we can not maintain our physical distance", she added.

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The updated policy comes a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government will look into the issue of airlines providing travel vouchers instead of refunds for cancelled flights. "Thinking of it as I am protecting you and you are protecting me".

Tam's new mask directive comes as stay-at-home orders are lifting in different provinces and more people are going outside, riding public transit, or visiting stores.

Premier Doug Ford says maintaing that 6-foot barrier, and staying home when you feel sick, are the best ways to beat the virus, but he added that "a face covering is better than none at all".