These towns and cities in France are set to make face masks compulsory

In a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus in their areas, a growing number of mayors of French towns have said protective masks soon will be mandatory for everyone when outside.

These towns and cities in France are set to make face masks compulsory
Photo: AFP

The southern city of Nice was the first city to make the move when Mayor Christian Estrosi on Monday evening announced that, soon, everyone would need to wear a face mask when out on the streets.

“In eight to 10 days, all inhabitants will receive a mask that they can reuse for a month,” Estrosi told journalists, adding that the city’s inhabitants would receive more information by Wednesday evening.


Others quickly followed suit. By Tuesday morning, the mayors of Cannes, Sceaux in the Hauts-de-Seine département (southwest of Paris) and Mandelieu-la-Napoule in the Alpes-Maritimes département announced similar decisions.

“I've asked that sufficient stocks be made available as soon as possible so that we can provide masks to everyone,” said Sebastien Leroy, mayor of Mandelieu-la-Napoule in a tweet.

The distribution would be free, he said.

Changing advice on face masks in France

The idea of making masks mandatory for the general population starkly contrasted with what until recently was the French government's official health advice around the coverings.

READ ALSO: Mask or no mask – what is the official coronavirus advice in France

Partly concerned with panic buying emptying their already meagre stocks of masks, the government said only people already infected, their carers and health workers needed to wear surgical face masks. For everyone else they were useless.

The French government's advice echoed that of the World Health Organisation which stated that fabric masks would not protect people from the droplet infection that transmits the virus.

A Parisian wearing a plastic bag over their head to protect themselves from potential coronavirus spread. Photo: AFP

Experts now believe that the virus could be spread through 'aerosol transmission' or through exhaled breath, rather than only through coughing as was initially believed.

It's also become apparent that there are more asymptomatic carriers than previously believed. Face masks in general don't protect you from catching the virus, but they can help people who already have it to avoid spreading it.

On Friday, France made a U-turn when Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon for the first time said  “We encourage the general public, if they so wish, to wear (…) these alternative masks which are being produced.”

READ ALSO: How countries have shifted their advice to the public

As the official health advice shifted, it's likely that more mayors will announce local decrees on face masks in the coming days.

Paris: 'Everyone should wear protection'

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Tuesday morning told France Info that she was prepared to “go in the same direction” as the other cities that had made masks mandatory.

“Everyone should have some kind of protection, and some kind of scarf of mask is better than nothing,” Hidalgo said.

The mayor's office would ensure that “two million cloth masks” be produced for the capital's inhabitants “in the coming days,” by “a network of small businesses,” according to the mayor.

How will they get the masks?

Nice is the fifth largest city of France with some 340,000 inhabitants. Getting hold on enough masks for everyone and then distribute them to everyone will be a major logistical challenge under the current lockdown.


Cannes has launched a local production and had 500 masks delivered to the local maire (city hall) on Monday. The city counts about 74,000 inhabitants.

“Our objective is to produce at least as many cloth masks, and then surpass this number,” maire representative Thierry Migoule told France Bleu.

Cannes' masks are of the brand AFNOR S76-001, which – although they offer less advanced protection than the surgical FFP2 masks – are approved by key health institutions. 

“We're not kidding around,” Migoule said.

“This product has been labeled by the regional health agency, the National agency of health and food security (ANSES) and the National agency of medical security (ANSM),” he said.

The City of Cannes has also bought 3D printers to fabric protective glasses for exposed workers.

Rules on jogging restricted

Mayor Estrosi justified the coming rules on masks with what he called an “inadmissible relaxation of the population’s behaviour” over the weekend.

Health workers this week expressed worry about the general population taking the lockdown less seriously after what they believed were too many people outside to enjoy the sunny weather over the weekend.

Estrosi also said outdoor physical exercise would be banned outside two time intervals, between 6am and noon and 6pm and 8pm.


Nice is also one of the cities that have introduced a nightly curfew.


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Property taxes, food and tunnels: 6 essential articles on life in France

From tax hikes to the price of food, air conditioning and the unexpected things that lurk beneath the streets of Paris, here are 6 essential articles for life in France.

Property taxes, food and tunnels: 6 essential articles on life in France

As the inhabitants of Paris, one of Europe’s most densely populated cities, walk along the Champs-Elysées or Rue de Rivoli, they might be entirely unaware of the extensive underground world that exists below their feet.

Paris has a huge network of underground spaces that hide some very unexpected things (as well as the entirely prosaci Metro).

Skulls, beer and a ‘cathedral’: Discover the secrets of underground Paris

From cheese and garlic to berets and sex, taxes and striking, France is heavily loaded with cultural stereotypes – and most of them are only partly accurate.

This is us, busting more myths.

Myth-busting: Are these 12 clichés about France actually true?

France warned that companies might have to reduce energy this winter as Russian continues to reduce its gas supplies to Europe.

The government has already begun work on an energy-saving plan, with more measures to come in September.

And it’s not the only country thinking along these lines – from limits to heating and air conditioning to turning off the lights and taking off ties, here’s how countries around Europe are cutting their energy usage.

Air-con, lights and ties: How countries around Europe hope to avoid blackouts this winter

Although householders in France are relatively fortunate when it comes to rising bills, there is one notable exception.

Towns and villages across France have been raising property tax rates for second-home owners – with many areas voting for the maximum 60 percent increase.

Tax hikes of up to 60% for French second home owners

As we’ve stumbled onto money matters, let’s consider the cost of living. France has many temptations to woo visitors and foreign residents: its scenery, history, the lifestyle, the food and the drink.

While some things here are more expensive than elsewhere – we’re looking at you, second-hand car dealers – and the taxes are notoriously high, what about the cost of groceries and wine? How do they compare? We do something that looks a lot like crunching the numbers…

How expensive is food and drink in France?

But, enough of all that seriousness. It’s silly season, after all. Prominent French scientist Etienne Klein has had to apologise for claiming this was the latest astonishing picture taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, when it was – in fact …

French astronomer apologises for ‘stellar’ photo that was really . . . chorizo

Some people take things far too seriously.