Toronto city council has voted in favour of making masks or face coverings mandatory in indoor public settings to fight the spread of COVID-19.
Children under two years old and anyone with health conditions that would be affected by wearing a mask will be exempt.
“It is about respecting and protecting each other,” Mayor John Tory, who voted in favour of the motion, said at a morning news conference.
The bylaw was written on the recommendation of Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa.
Tory says the temporary bylaw does not affect social gatherings but will apply to public spaces including stores and other businesses.
The bylaw comes into effect on July 7 and will be reviewed by de Villa on a monthly basis.
De Villa says she made the recommendation to help Toronto move from Stage 2 of the Ontario’s reopening plan to Stage 3.
She says masks will help indoor spaces — most of which had been closed during the earlier stages of the pandemic — stay safe.
“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for all of us to remember that we are still in the middle of a pandemic,” De Villa said during a news conference Tuesday.
The City said the bylaw will expire at 12:01 a.m. after the first council meeting following the summer break, which is currently scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, unless it is extended by council.
This comes one day after the Ontario government said a provincial masking policy wasn’t necessary despite an appeal from most GTHA mayors.
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti has been spearheading the campaign to make masks mandatory in Ontario.
He was joined by Tory, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti and Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua in a request to make face coverings mandatory indoors, provincially.
The mayor of Brampton will announce on Tuesday that masks will be mandatory in indoor spaces across Peel Region starting next week, his office confirmed to CityNews. There is no specific implementation date, even though at first Patrick Brown’s office said the masks will be mandated as of Monday, July 6.
In a statement on Monday, Ontario Ministry of Health spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene said local medical officers of health have the authority to institute the same policy.
“Doing so at a local level would ensure responsiveness to community needs without applying the same policy to regions with little to no COVID,” she said.
As well, when asked last week about making masks mandatory across the province, Premier Doug Ford said it would be too hard to enforce, especially in areas in the north that have not had any confirmed cases of COVID-19.
However, the province still continues to urge people to wear masks if possible and continue to practice physical distancing.