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HEALTH

‘They say wear it, so we wear it’ – How are France’s new mask rules going down?

Failure to cover your face in indoor public spaces in France can now land you with a fine of €135. We asked people whether they're happy with the new regulations.

'They say wear it, so we wear it' - How are France's new mask rules going down?
Masks are now mandatory in indoor public spaces in France. Photo: AFP

Masks have been mandatory in all indoor establishments in France since Monday, a rule change that was brought forward after concerns at the rising number of cases.

There are also now steep fines in place – but how are French people feeling about the new regulations?

IN DETAIL: When and where is it compulsory to wear a mask in France?

 

Failing to wear a mask inside a shop could result in a fine of €135. Photo: AFP

'It's a good thing'

Although a tiny (but loud) minority of anti-mask 'activists' have been making their presence felt on social media in France, the one thing we heard again and again when we asked people about the new rules was 'c'est une bonne chose' (it's a good thing).

“I completely understand,” says Isabelle, a 42-year-old architect from Paris. “It's about protecting the elderly, the more vulnerable.”

“It's not easy, but it's important.” says Asdou, a cleaner originally from Réunion, now living in Paris. “For me wearing a mask is hard because I have allergies and it sometimes gets difficult for me to breathe, particularly on the Metro. But it's for the good of everyone.”

There's perhaps an impression that young people are more selfish when it comes to social distancing and barrier gestures, but the ones we spoke to were well aware of the importance of the new rules.

“It's normal,” says Sophie, a 25-year-old film student from Deauville. “If they say wear it, we wear it.”

That was echoed by Chloe, a 22-year-old waitress originally from Angers.

“It's horrible but we have no choice. If people don't wear masks the virus will begin to circulate again and we will have to close down.” 

The French say they follow the rules

Not one person that we spoke to felt that the French were anything other than top-notch at following the regulations.

That said, some did feel there was room for improvement.

“I know there's a new rule, but I think people are relaxing,” says Pauline, a 28-year-old hairdresser from Fontainebleau. “When it's warm people drink, and the rules fall away.”

Architect Isabelle said she had just returned from Spain where people “still have the fear of the virus, because the cases are higher, so they're more careful. People here don't have the same fear anymore.”

Visiting London couple Gregory and Lindsey (both wearing beautiful paisely-patterned masks) were impressed with the level of compliance they'd encountered in Paris. 

“I'd say eighty percent of people wear masks on public transport in London even though it's compulsory, but here it's more like ninety-five. And we even saw a woman tell someone off for not wearing one on the Metro,” says Gregory.

However Paris-based Korean journalist Jennie put France's mask-wearing credentials into harsh perspective when compared to her home country.

“Even with the new rule, it's lax,” she says. “In Korea basically everyone wears masks all the time. You risk stigmatisation if you don't.”

“It's probably a cultural thing, but Korea had one of the first major outbreaks and it's had less than 300 deaths in total so far. They seem to believe it was due to early and persistent mask-wearing.”

Parisians vs the rest of France

Finally, there was some interesting divergence of opinion on whether Parisians were better or worse at sticking to the rules than the rest of France.

Paris was particularly hard-hit by the virus, so has that made Parisians more cautious?

“People in Paris still do la bise” says waitress Chloe, referring to the French double cheek greeting kiss. “It's crazy. Back home [in Angers] you don't see it.”

“It scares me how many people I see close together in bars and on the Metro here in Paris,” says hairdresser Pauline. “Masks or no masks, it's not a good idea.”

But Anne-Sophie, a 31-year-old bank clerk from the town of Yvetot in Normandy, says it's outside the big city that rules are falling by the wayside. 

“Where I'm from is a bit rural, so I rarely see people wearing masks. It's like they don't think it will touch them,” she says. 

That was echoed by Rosalie, a 26-year-old doctoral student originally from rural Épernay.

“Back in Champagne, it's like the pandemic doesn't exist anymore.” she says. “Generally, the rules are better-followed in Paris.”

 

 

 

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TRAVEL

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

Ever seen those drivers who avoid the queues at toll booths and driving straight through? Here's how they do it.

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

If you’re driving on French autoroutes one of the things you need to know is that they are not free – you will have to pay regular tolls, payable at toll booths known as péage.

Usually, drivers pick up a ticket from a booth at the start of their journey, then pay the required amount at a booth at the end of it – or when they move onto a different section of autoroute – based on the distance they have travelled.

But the toll booths themselves can be busy, especially during the summer, and long queues sometimes build up.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

This is where automated pay systems – known as télépéage – come in, especially for those who use the motorway network regularly.

As well as allowing you to pass straight through péages without stopping for payment, it’s also very useful for owners of right-hand drive vehicles, who may otherwise find that they’re sitting on the wrong side for easy and speedy payment.

Here’s how it works

Order your télépéage badge online

Click on the Bip&Go website here and follow the instructions to order a scannable personalised device (up to a maximum of two per account for private users). You will need to set up an account to arrange electronic payment of charges.

The website is available in English, French, German or Dutch.

You will need to supply bank details (IBAN number), address (for delivery), mobile phone number (to activate your account) and the vehicle’s registration details.

Your badge will be dispatched to your address within 48 hours from the opening of your online account. You can have the device sent to addresses outside France, but allow longer for it to arrive. 

If you’re in France, you can also pick up the device at one of Bip&Go’s stores, if you prefer – you will need need your bank details, proof of identity and a mobile phone.

Attach your badge 

Place your device on on the windscreen to the right of the rearview mirror. It is activated and ready to go. Then, simply, drive.

At the péage

All toll booths are equipped with the sensors that recognise that the vehicle is carrying the necessary device. At most, you will have to stop briefly for the device to be recognised and the barrier to lift.

You will also be able to drive through certain booth areas without stopping. These are indicated by an orange t symbol on the overhead signs. The maximum speed you can pass through these booths is 30kph.

Payments

Payments are processed automatically. You can monitor the amounts you have to pay on an app.

Do I need separate badges for motorway networks run by different companies?

No. The badge allows holders to travel on the entire French motorway network, no matter which company manages the motorway, and you can also use it to cross a number of toll structures in France such as the Millau Viaduct, the Tancarville Bridge or the Normandie Bridge, and pay to park in more than 450 car parks. 

Is it only valid in France?

No, with certain packages, you can also as easily travel on motorways in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and use a number of compatible car parks. You can even use them on Italian ferries.

Okay, but how much does it cost?

Subscriptions to the Bip&Go service depend on what type of service you want. A fixed price rolling subscription is €16 a year – plus toll charges – but assumes you’re a regular user of French motorways. 

A pay-as-you-go subscription is €1.70 for every month the badge is in use – plus toll charges – and carries a €10 additional fee if the badge is not used in a 12-month period.

How much are the toll charges?

They depend on the road you’re on, how far you travel along it, and the vehicle you’re driving.

Heading from Toulouse to Biarritz along the A64 will cost a total €23 in fees for a private car and if you’re driving all the way from Calais down to the Mediterranean coast expect to pay around €70 once you add up the various tolls along the way.

You can find out tariffs for autoroutes on the website of France’s official autoroute body AFSA – where you can also calculate the cost of your journey – including fuel.

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