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HEALTH

Toulouse becomes first French city to make masks compulsory in all outdoor areas

Toulouse has become the first French city to declare face masks compulsory in all outdoor areas, in a bid to halt the quickening spread of the coronavirus.

Toulouse becomes first French city to make masks compulsory in all outdoor areas
Masks will be compulsory in all outdoor spaces in Toulouse from Friday. Photo: AFP

Toulouse is France's fourth-largest city and officials there fear that a mass movement of people as the summer break draws to a close will lead to a spike in infections.

Hundreds of French towns have already made masks compulsory in some outdoor areas, but Toulouse is the first city to impose a blanket requirement for all outdoor spaces.

Some towns have specified certain areas, such as the historic walled town of Saint-Malo, while others have specified busy areas such as main shopping streets and outdoor markets.

MAP Where in France is it compulsory to wear a mask outdoors?

In Paris authorities first brought in a complicated system where masks were compulsory on 102 named streets. After much complaint, from August 15th a slightly less complicated system was brought in, where masks are compulsory in 37 zones but not in the whole city.

National laws make face masks compulsory on public transport and indoors in public places, on pain of a €135 fine.

But Prime Minister Jean Castex has encouraged local authorities to draw up their own regulations adapted for local conditions and so far around 400 communes have brought in rules on masks in outdoor spaces.

Toulouse officials said masks would be compulsory outdoors across the city starting on Friday, August 21st from 7am to 3am, for all people aged 12 and over, including those on bikes and scooters.

New infections across France have been increasing in recent weeks and the numbers of people admitted to hospital have been rising as well.

On Tuesday, Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne announced masks will be required in all shared, indoor workspaces starting next month, including in meeting rooms, corridors, change rooms and open-plan offices.

The coronavirus outbreak has claimed more than 30,400 lives in France so far.

After initially casting doubt on the value of masks as an infection barrier, the French government made a U-turn and have since the end of the nationwide lockdown in May recommended people use masks as a protective measure along with social distancing and regular hand sanitising.

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STRIKES

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

General practitioners in France are planning another industrial action that will see doctors' offices closed as they call for better investment in community healthcare.

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

Primary care doctors in France announced plans to strike again in February, after walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.

The strike will take place on Tuesday, February 14th, and it comes just a few weeks ahead of the end-of-February deadline where France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.

Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out. 

Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.

Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

New concerns among GPs

According to reporting by La Depeche, in the upcoming strike in February primary care doctors will also be walking out over a new fear – the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.

Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.

However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.

Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.

Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more medical deserts, and for working conditions to be improved.

Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.

In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card.

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