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COVID-19 RECOVERY

Government makes masks compulsory 'next week' as Covid-19 resurges in France

A man undergoes a Covid-19 test in the north-western department of Mayenne, where a resurgence of the virus has been detected.
A man undergoes a Covid-19 test in the north-western department of Mayenne, where a resurgence of the virus has been detected. AFP - JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER

France is to make mask-wearing compulsory in enclosed public places as of next week – bringing forward an earlier deadline set for 1 August – amid a coronavirus resurgence in parts of the country including Paris.

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Prime Minister Jean Castex made the announcement in the Senate on Thursday morning, shortly after Health Minister Olivier Véran warned an escalation of infections in the north-western department of Mayenne was proving “problematic”.

Case numbers have tripled since June in Mayenne, which has now become the first part of mainland France to be classified “highly vulnerable” since national lockdown measures were eased in May.

Local authorities on Thursday ordered the immediate and compulsory wearing of face masks in enclosed public spaces in the department’s main city Laval, as well as five other municipalities.

A report by France’s public health agency showed the rate of contagion in Mayenne is now higher than the national average, and has exceeded the alert threshold – with 50.1 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants detected over the past seven days.

To combat the surge, the Health Ministry has ramped up the capacity for on-site testing – “even without a doctor’s prescription”.

The chain of transmission is being tracked, Véran has assured, adding that most clusters have emerged in closed or confined places.

'Renewed epidemic' in Paris

Speaking to France Inter radio on Thursday morning, Véran also said Paris hospital data showed the virus was gaining ground in the French capital. 

Calls to emergency departments and SOS doctors, combined with an increase in the number of hospital admissions, have shown the virus is picking up again.

Faced with a "renewed epidemic", Véran called on everyone in France "to remain particularly vigilant and active against the virus".

Access to screening in the Ile-de-France region surrounding Paris is being made easier, he said, with 1.5 million tests being delivered to the area. Laboratory technicians are now allowed to process PCR samples to meet the increase in requests.

"There are a large number of Ile-de-France residents who wish to go on vacation and who want to be tested before leaving, which means there has been a massive influx of people wanting to access the laboratories over the past few days," Véran said.

While on vacation, French people "wherever they are” would be able to get tested, he added.

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