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Quebec changes outdoor mask rule aimed at controlling COVID-19 spread

Quebec is making changes to the rules requiring masks in outdoor settings amid confusion and criticism over the government’s latest COVID-19 measure.

Premier François Legault wrote about the modifications on his Facebook page Wednesday, saying that the purpose of the health order is to “prevent the transmission of the virus” between people from different households.

“I therefore requested that the decree be clarified so that this obligation only applies to situations where it may be difficult to maintain the two-metre distance at all times with people who do not live with us,” Legault wrote.

“In a situation where you are sure to always stay more than two metres away, such as tennis or golf, or sitting in a park, it is not necessary to wear the mask.”

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Prior to the changes made Wednesday, masks were required any time two or more people from different households are together outdoors in designated red and orange zones — except if they are seated at least two metres apart or during water sports.

Legault also clarified that couples who don’t live together are also not required to wear a mask when they see one another.

“Same thing when two people walk together, but at a good distance,” he said.

Police officers will “exercise their judgment” when it comes to issuing tickets, according to Legault.

On Tuesday, the province’s director of public health admitted the rule was inconsistent for couples who don’t live together. Dr. Horacio Arruda also said the province doesn’t have data confirming that transmission is happening outside but said experts believe there’s a risk given the contagious nature of new COVID-19 variants.

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The Legault government has been lambasted by the opposition for creating confusion among Quebecers over the rule.

Earlier in the day, the Liberals and Quebec solidaire both took aim at the government for not properly explaining the new measure to the public.

Quebec solidaire spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said Wednesday in the provincial capital that the new rules are hard to follow and it hasn’t been shown why they’re necessary.

“I understand why everybody is like ‘What?’ — because it’s difficult to understand,” he said.

— With files from Global News’ Raquel Fletcher and The Canadian Press

Click to play video: Masks now required for elementary school students in Quebec red zones

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