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COVID-19

‘Operation Resilience’: French military to join fight against coronavirus

The French military will support public services strained by the coronavirus epidemic, President Emmanuel Macron has said, as the country's death toll topped 1,300.

'Operation Resilience': French military to join fight against coronavirus
French President Emmanuel Macron (C) wears a face mask during the visit of the military field hospital outside the Emile Muller Hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France, on March 25, 2020. AFP

France like other nations has already imposed a nationwide ban on non-essential movement and closed schools and restaurants in a bid to stop the spread of the pandemic.

The military operation, named “Resilience”, will focus on “aiding and supporting the population, as well as helping public services face the epidemic in mainland France and overseas”, Macron said on Wednesday.

“Unity and courage will allow us to overcome this, we are only at the beginning, but we will hold out,” Macron added, declaring that France was “at war”.

The comments came after the president visited a military field hospital set up by the army in the eastern Mulhouse region which has been badly hit by the coronavirus.

“The whole nation has been mobilised” in the fight against the disease, said a masked Macron, who also promised more investment for hospitals.

READ ALSO: In Pictures – France builds military field hospital for most serious coronavirus patients

France also announced it will withdraw its contingent of troops from Iraq, mostly trainers to local armed forces, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the chief of staff said on Wednesday.

France has around 200 military personnel working in Iraq either as trainers or in the headquarters of coalition forces in Baghdad.

“In coordination with the Iraqi government, the coalition has decided to adjust its deployments in Iraq and provisionally suspend training activities,” it said in a statement.

The UK defence ministry had already announced some of its troops would come home, citing a “reduced requirement for training” Iraqi security forces.

Iraq's military had halted all training in early March to minimise the risk of the illness spreading among its forces, including from the US-led coalition helping fight remnants of the Islamic State group.

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COVID-19

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).

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