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Commuters ride a near-empty subway train in Montreal on May 25, 2020.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Quebec is lifting its mask mandate for public transit on June 18, the province’s health minister announced Wednesday.

Christian Dube said the decision was based on a recommendation by public health officials, adding that the COVID-19 situation in the province continues to improve.

“This is an important step that confirms the significant improvement in the epidemiological situation over the past few weeks,” Dube said in a news release. “The decision to wear a mask, whether in public places or on public transit, will remain a personal choice.”

Masking will remain mandatory in hospitals, long-term care homes and other health-care centres.

People with COVID-19 must wear a mask in public for five days after they finish a five-day isolation period, the Health Department said. Roommates of people who have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for the disease must wear a mask for 10 days, the department added.

Quebec became the last province to lift its indoor mask mandate in most public places on May 14.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s chief medical officer on Wednesday said masks will no longer be required on public transit and in many health-care facilities in that province on June 11. Ontario will continue to require masking in long-term care centres and retirement homes.

Earlier Wednesday, a Quebec government health-care research institute said it expected the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province to continue declining over the next two weeks. The Institut national d’excellence en sante et en services sociaux said in its weekly forecast the number of people in hospital – not counting those in intensive care – should drop to between 606 and 771 over that period.

The institute said it expected the number of people in intensive care to decline to around 15 over the same period.

The Health Department said Wednesday 1,012 people were in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of five from the day before, and that 25 people were in intensive care, a decline of one.

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