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LIFE IN PARIS

Mysterious ‘superhero’ picking the locks of Paris’ closed parks and gardens

A mysterious figure who picks the locks of Paris parks at night for people who have been cooped up in the city's tiny apartments has become something of a folk hero.

Mysterious 'superhero' picking the locks of Paris' closed parks and gardens
Photo: AFP

Parks have been chained up in Europe's most densely populated capital since the coronavirus lockdown began more than eight weeks ago.

Although parks have reopened in France's 'green zones' with fewer coronavirus cases, as a red zone Paris' parks remain closed, despite the city's mayor Anne Hidalgo pleading with the government to allow them to reopen if people wore masks.

But as temperatures hit 30C this week, an amateur lock-picker admitted that he has been opening parks at night to let Parisians sit on the grass and smell the roses.

Police clearing the laws of Les Invalides in Paris. Photo: AFP

A man calling himself “Jose” told French daily Le Parisien that he has been liberating parks in the poorer districts of northern and eastern Paris in a series of “Batman” style nocturnal actions.

Two handwritten posters hanging from the railings of the Parc de Belleville on Friday said “Thank you, Jose!”, seeming to show that the phantom locker picker has generated a following.

Discontent with the closure of parks has been rising since France began to slowly relax its lockdown last week, with the police forced to clear the huge open lawns in front of Les Invalides in central Paris of picnickers twice in two days.

Officers had earlier dispersed hundreds of people from the banks of Canal Saint-Martin.

Jose, who claims he only picks locks as a hobby and makes an honest living from a “normal job”, said: “Paris apartments are very small. We are supposed to be coming out of lockdown, but everything is closed.”

Almost a quarter of Paris's population escaped the city – many of them going to second homes in the country – during the strictest period of the lockdown.

But the city's poor and essential workers were stuck in often tiny flats during one of the sunniest springs on record.

Hidalgo, who is fighting a re-election campaign, asked the government to treat parks like the city's streets and allow people to “stroll through them if they were wearing a mask, which should be obligatory”.

But Health Minister Olivier Véran said the parks should stay shut as long as Paris and its surroundings remain in the “red zone” of infections.

He said the risk of people gathering and not respecting social distancing was too great.

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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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