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France Covid-19

French court rules 'compulsory' facemasks violates freedom of movement

A baker wears a protective face mask distributed by the city hall and made in Cannes as she poses in her bakery in Cannes, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues in France, April 8, 2020.
A baker wears a protective face mask distributed by the city hall and made in Cannes as she poses in her bakery in Cannes, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues in France, April 8, 2020. REUTERS - ERIC GAILLARD

A French court has told a suburban Paris mayor to suspend his contraversial order that town residents must wear face masks when outdoors to combat Covid-19.

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On Thursday, a court in Nanterre ruled the mayor of Sceaux, Philppe Laurent "was not justified by any local circumstances, and seriously violates fundamental freedom of movement", according to Patrice Spinosi of the League of Human Rights (LDH), the group that had filed a complaint.

Spinosi added, "Restricting rights and freedoms to ensure public health can only be ordered by a government."

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner also warned that mayors should not be issuing unilateral orders to wear masks, adding it was a "thorny subject" and "not medically proven".

Laurent had ordered residents of the southern Parisien suburb of Sceaux, who are over the age of 10, to wear masks while outside starting on Wednesday.

Mixed messages

Debate has been raging in France over whether face masks help slow the spread of the virus.

The government initially said that was not necessary for the general public -- with shortages in hospitals where they were genuinely needed -- but later shifted its position to say they could be useful.

Protective face masks are seen at Aline Buffet's sewing workshop in Cannes, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues in France, April 8, 2020.
Protective face masks are seen at Aline Buffet's sewing workshop in Cannes, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues in France, April 8, 2020. REUTERS - ERIC GAILLARD

   According to a survey by polling firm Odoxa, 76 percent of people in France believe the government "hid the truth" due to the shortages in hospitals.

The Naterre court's decision has been closely followed because some large cities have also mulled an obligatory mask rule.

The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, has said that masks would be obligatory in the Mediterranean coastal city once France's nationwide lockdown comes to a end.

 

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