Canada’s chief public health officer is officially recommending Canadians wear non-medical face masks when maintaining a two-metre distance isn’t possible.
Dr. Theresa Tam made the announcement on Wednesday, less than an hour after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about his own approach to mask wearing and his intention to continue wearing a mask where physical distancing isn’t possible. Tam told reporters that the language on masks has shifted from “permissive” to a “specific recommendation.
“If you can’t predict whether you can maintain that two-metre distance, then it’s recommended that you wear the non-medical mask or facial covering,” Tam said.
She said Public Health will be posting the updated recommendations on medical masks online today, noting that the recommendation isn’t mandatory and will allow for public health officers across Canada to consider their area’s needs.
In the hours after her announcement, public health officers from various provinces began echoing the recommendation.
Countries around the world have been navigating non-medical mask wearing in different ways. Spain had previously made masks compulsory on public transit, and starting Thursday, will make them compulsory in public places — including the outdoors — for all people over the age of six.
Within Canada, some grocery stores and airlines are asking Canadians to wear non-medical masks while using their services.
Trudeau said that he himself has taken up mask wearing in instances where he can’t maintain a physical distance of two metres from others.
“In situations where I am either walking through the halls of parliament or going to my office and coming in proximity to people, I’ve chosen to start wearing a mask,” Trudeau said.
“That’s my personal choice, that is aligned, I think, with what public health is recommending. I think we all need to adjust to what works in our circumstances and keep safety at the forefront of what we’re doing.”
Guidelines on the use of non-medical masks can be found here.