As Quebec was starting to reopen, Premier, le Premier Ministre, François Legault urged the population of Quebec to wear face masks. His audience was not entirely patient with him. Was this a change of policy?
Let’s see. Two months ago, after the Government of Quebec announced a lockdown. I saw residents of my building huddling by the mailboxes, less than two feet apart. As I was rushing down the hallway to safety, I walked past a woman who was saying that she didn’t believe in this virus. To my knowledge, take-out restaurants, such as McDonalds, were locked down, but I knew about the remains of a chicken that were thrown down the garbage chute, naked. As you know, my neighbours are mostly perfect, but these particular neighbours are not. The remains of a chicken should had been put in a bag and then dropped into one of the composting bins.
After two months of isolation, one may be confused. So, I phoned the authorities in order to ask if a policy was in place regarding the delivery of food to persons living in a condominium or an apartment building. I explained that sons and daughters, holding bags filled with groceries and other supplies, were ringing mother’s apartment and waiting for her in the lobby. Mother came down and picked up the bag or bags. However, delivery men were riding up and down elevators and walking along corridors carrying take-outs. If they came to my building, they also went to other buildings and various houses. They could spread the virus during a lockdown.
The authorities, or the person who took my call, did not know whether a policy existed, but she felt that social distancing precluded the delivery of meals to an individual’s apartment. Owners were to go to the lobby and pick up what they had ordered. I therefore suggested to the Committee that, during a lockdown, it seemed somewhat risky to let people circulate in the hallways. In fact, I wondered why we did not have a concierge monitoring access to apartments. The telephone and television system did not go the distance. Could we presume individual owners would be cautious? No, I thought, not if they threw down the chute, unwrapped, the greasy remains of a chicken. These neighbours must be newcomers.
We now return to Quebec’s Premier. I reflected that if François Legault was urging people to wear a mask, it was not a change of policy, but altogether consistent with lifting the lockdown when the coronavirus remained a genuine threat. The government feared that allowing untested people to return to work may lead to flareups, hence the Premier asking, but not dictating, the wearing of a mask. This led to more impatience. Why wasn’t the wearing of masks compulsory (“obligatory” said monsieur Legault)? He explained that it was not “obligatory” because masks were not easily available. Canada had ordered masks from China, which had arrived, but which were defective. They were not approved by Health Canada. Ironically, Canadian-approved N95 masks were being sought by Chinese counterfeiters. In short, some Quebecers do not have access to masks.
As you know, Covid-19 caught everyone unawares. For instance, the novel coronavirus hit Montreal like a bomb. It was a Canadian version of the “tsunami” Milan’s doctor Giacomo Grasselli had described so aptly. (See The Coronavirus. 3). The outbreak of Covid-19 surprised Italians just as it surprised Canada’s doctors, in Montreal especially.
The outbreak has therefore led to decisions, some of which were revisited and reversed. I should tell you that the Quebec government will not reopen schools, Montreal schools, in particular, until September. Some daycares remained open during the lockdown. Given flareups, reopening schools on May 19th was not appropriate. Flareups herald a second wave of Covid-19 that could be the same as the second wave of the Spanish flu of 1918, deadlier than the initial outbreak.
In Quebec, Muslims cannot wear the burqa, but the government was approving the wearing of facemasks. Was this another contradiction? A burqa conceals the face and the body. It can therefore be used to conceal a weapon. Masks cover the nose and mouth as do certain Islamic veils, but the purpose of masks is protection from a virus one can inhale. The virus is a weapon.
No, it was not a contradiction. The coronavirus enters one’s nose and mouth. Coughing has therefore become a potentially lethal weapon. If one is infected with the virus and coughs without wearing a mask, one may inadvertently spread the highly transmissible coronavirus to a person who does not wear personal protective equipment. If everyone wears a mask, everyone is protected to a significant extent. The mask is not a violation of a person’s privacy, but protective personal equipment, which explains why Premier Legault is urging Quebecers who are re-entering the workplace to wear a mask. The virus may be with us for a very long time and it is coriace, tough, coriace as coriace can be.
But, let us hear monsieur Legault.
Distancing saves lives. It would therefore be my opinion that until our top doctors and scientists find a vaccine or a cure, good masks are our only protection.
I agree with Premier Legault. If one re-enters the workplace, one wears a mask. A mask could allow us to revive our hope and let us rebuild our economy. We can now see the Himalayas, not to mention the stars. The new economy should be a different economy, one that does not pollute the air and cause global warming. However, Premier Legault linked the wearing of a mask to a revival of the economy we know. The two are inextricably linked:
Opening up businesses could hinge on Montrealers wearing masks in public — something Legault has been pushing for several days.
“We will still give ourselves a few days to take a decision on retail businesses,” Legault said. “A crucial element that would help us to reopen is for the majority of people to wear a mask in public.” (The National Gazette)
It may be years before the coronavirus is defeated. Scientists may find a vaccine and a cure, but this may not happen in the near future. Working from home can be extremely difficult and it is at times impossible. So if masks can protect us, let us wear masks.
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Love to all of you 💕
I’m quite sick, but a neighbour noticed. She knows everyone. She was worried and phoned me.
This BBC video will probably be erased, but it is funny. This video may lead to another. (Credit: The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.)
© Micheline Walker
15 May 2020
The latest numbers of confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on May 15, 2020:
There are 73,401 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada.
- Quebec: 40,724 confirmed (including 3,351 deaths, 10,829 resolved)
- Ontario: 21,494 confirmed (including 1,798 deaths, 16,204 resolved)
- Alberta: 6,457 confirmed (including 121 deaths, 5,205 resolved)
- British Columbia: 2,392 confirmed (including 135 deaths, 1,885 resolved)
- Nova Scotia: 1,026 confirmed (including 51 deaths, 909 resolved)
- Saskatchewan: 582 confirmed (including 6 deaths, 398 resolved)
- Manitoba: 278 confirmed (including 7 deaths, 252 resolved), 11 presumptive
- Newfoundland and Labrador: 261 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 248 resolved)
- New Brunswick: 120 confirmed (including 118 resolved)
- Prince Edward Island: 27 confirmed (including 27 resolved)
- Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)
- Yukon: 11 confirmed (including 11 resolved)
- Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)
- Nunavut: No confirmed cases
- Total: 73,401 (11 presumptive, 73,390 confirmed including 5,472 deaths, 36,104 resolved)
The Canadian Press