Greens ask health authorities to recommend face masks in public to limit infections

OTTAWA – As provinces begin to ease the restrictions of the pandemic lockdown, the Green Party of Canada is urging federal and provincial health authorities to recommend low-tech measures – such as wearing face masks in public – successfully employed in other countries to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Green MP Paul Manly (Nanaimo-Ladysmith) has been following developments in Taiwan where his brother is a teacher.  “Given that Taiwan has pretty much avoided any kind of lockdown, I think it merits us taking a closer look at what they are doing right,” he said. 

“Taiwan learned critical lessons from the SARS epidemic, so when COVID-19 threatened to engulf their country, they invoked the precautionary principle and prepared for the worst,” said Manly. “They already had a stockpile of masks in case of a pandemic, but in early February they ramped up domestic production of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks and hand sanitizer for the general public.”

In early February Taiwan was listed in the top 10 countries with COVID-19 outbreaks. By May 4, Taiwan had dropped to number 122 with 438 cases and six deaths. In contrast, Canada is at number 12 with 61,422 cases and 3,891 deaths. Taiwan has a population of 23.78 million, the 57th largest country in the world in terms of population, and the 17th most densely populated.

While the wearing of face masks is not mandatory, it is encouraged through voluntary cooperation. Chang Shan-chwen, a specialist with Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center, says that masks are a significant factor in reducing the spread of COVID-19 with the odds of transmitting the disease dropping by 99 per cent if both infected and non-infected persons wear masks.”

“They put strategies in place that they hoped would enable citizens to continue daily life with minimal disruptions and in their case, it seems to have paid off,” said Mr. Manly. “The students my brother teaches missed two weeks of school after their winter break but they are all back in class now. My brother and his students wear masks in class and the students use plexiglass shields on their desks while they eat their lunches. Parents take the temperature of children every morning before they go to school, and keep them home if their temperature has increased.”

“Our first priority with PPE must continue to be providing supplies to frontline and essential workers,” said Green Party Interim Leader Jo-Ann Roberts. “Many European Union countries are asking  people to wear simple cloth masks when in public spaces. Some airlines, including Air Canada, require all passengers to wear them. Since we’re probably in this for the long haul, it seems like a simple, but effective strategy to encourage here in Canada as well.”

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Rosie Emery

Press Secretary