Last spring, when Montreal was the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, Quebec resisted making masks mandatory in public places, even as face coverings became a preventive measure implemented widely around the world.
Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, offered every excuse in the book for why he didn’t think they were necessary. People would put them on wrong. It would offer a false sense of security. He preferred convincing people to wear them rather than forcing them.
By summer, however, after the city of Montreal, transit agencies and most businesses had already decided to make them a requirement, the Quebec government finally came around. Lo and behold, the number of new COVID-19 cases ebbed. And despite a modest resurgence in late July, the coronavirus has remained mostly manageable, despite a loosening of social restrictions.
You’d think the government might have learned a thing or two from this experience. Delaying more stringent regulations for fear of offending a vocal minority that doesn’t like to be told what to do failed to produce a significant backlash. And waiting so long to introduce more serious measures may have hampered efforts to flatten the curve of transmission in Quebec earlier.