As Quebec lifts the majority of its mask mandates, pharmacists across the encouraging people to continue to mask on their premises.
On May 11, provincial director of public health Dr. Luc Boileau confirmed that mask mandates in most public places would become a thing of the past on May 14. However, masks are still required in hospitals, clinics and seniors’ residences as well as on public transit.
Shortly after Boileau’s announcement, the Orde des pharmaciens du Québec, the Association de pharmaciens salariés (APPSQ), the Association de pharmaciens propriétaires (AQPP) and the Association des chaînes et bannières de pharmacies du Québec (ABCPQ) released a statement calling on members of the public to continue to wear masks in pharmacies.
Bertrand Bolduc is the president of the OPQ.
“I’m not blaming public health for making the decision they did, but we took the initiative to make this recommendation because we know our professional setting more than they do,” he said. “Pharmacists don’t have time to be the mask police, but we’re going to encourage [mask-wearing] out of respect for our clients.”
He explained that many pharmacies serve vulnerable patients, including senior citizens, people with asthma and people who may be undergoing chemotherapy or taking rejection medications after an organ transplant.
“It’s possible for some patients to get their medication delivered, but there are some services we have to provide in person,” he said. “We can’t deliver a vaccine…and some patients come into the pharmacy to receive nursing care or to learn how to use in-home medical equipment. In the front of a drugstore, people can do what they please, but we ask them to put their masks back on when they enter the pharmacy section.”
“I would feel more comfortable if the mask mandate was maintained in pharmacies, especially since we have people coming in who are symptomatic,” said Marc-Denis Hubert, a Sherbrooke-based pharmacist who owns two pharmacies. “We need to protect vulnerable patients…and we also need to protect staff. We’re dealing with a major labour shortage, and if I [temporarily] lose three employees, that will be a big problem.”
Hubert plans to put up signs at his workplace He explained that many pharmacies serve encouraging mask-wearing, have masks on hand to offer to people who request them, and proactively suggest mask-wearing to anyone who seems symptomatic. He and his employees also plan to keep masking on the job. “If we don’t wear masks, people are going to say, ‘If the pharmacist doesn’t care, why should I?’” he said.
He expects most customers to keep wearing masks until the summer, and perhaps longer. “People are used to it, and those who think they are vulnerable will keep wearing masks,” he predicted. “Even in 2026, I’d like for people who are symptomatic to keep wearing masks, and I’d like for employees to keep masking and cleaning surfaces as we have been doing. We will keep protecting ourselves, and we will be relying on people to use their civic sense to protect patients and staff.”