Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said politicians shouldn’t be offering key medical directives, referring specifically to whether Canadians should be wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Trudeau told reporters on Monday he’s “not going to make health recommendations to people,” because “I don’t think politicians should be opining on health solutions or fixes.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published new findings stating that wearing a facial covering could prevent the spread of the virus among those who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. When asked whether Canada would make similar recommendations, Trudeau said he defers to public health authorities for these kinds of solutions.
“I encourage people to continue to listen to Dr. Theresa Tam, and to health experts and professionals on how best we can keep ourselves safe,” said Trudeau, referring to Canada’s chief public health officer.
It’s a message being promoted at the provincial level as well. On Monday Ontario Premier Doug Ford said, “It’s up to every person in Ontario to listen to the experts.”
Many have criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for offering his own opinions on the use of face masks and not following guidelines outlined by the CDC.
“Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens – I don’t know, I don’t see it for myself,” said Trump at a press conference last week.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who tested positive for COVID-19 and has since been hospitalized, has also come under fire for not supporting rules set out by health authorities, including social distancing restrictions. A few weeks ago during a press conference, he said he was continuing to shake hands with people.
There have been conflicting reports about whether there’s a need for the general public to use face masks to prevent transmission.
The CDC now says on its website: “The virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity – for example, speaking coughing, or sneezing – even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where others social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
Tam has acknowledged the evidence behind the CDC’s response, and referenced other recent studies during a Monday press briefing where she repeated that “wearing a non-medical mask, even if you have no symptoms, is an additional measure that you can take to protect others around you.”
“A non-medical mask can reduce the chance of your respiratory droplets coming into contact with others,” she said, adding that it has not been proven to protect the individual wearing the mask, but those nearby.
She suggests using everyday household items such as cotton shirts, sheets, or bandanas but said more information about recommended materials will be released soon.
The government and health authorities alike continue to reinforce that surgical and N95 masks should be reserved solely for health-care workers on the front lines.