France has been pushing advice on les gestes barrières (hygiene gestures) since the beginning of the pandemic, with no press conference complete without a mention of the general advice on physical distancing, mask-wearing, regular handwashing and avoiding physical contact such as kissing or handshaking.
Now, however, with the emergence of new variants in the UK, South Africa and Brazil which experts believe are more contagious, the Académie nationale de médecine and Haut Conseil de santé publique have published revised advice on extra measures that people can take on top of the standard procedures.
They are recommending three things;
1. Ditch the fabric masks
This echoes revised government advice published on January 18th that home-made fabric masks, previously recommended for everyday use, are not sufficient protection against the new variants.
The advice is now to wear a surgical mask, although the high-grade FFP2 masks are still recommended for medical professionals only.
The mask guidance is, for the moment, advisory, so you will not be fined for wearing a fabric mask in a public place as long as you are wearing it correctly over your mouth and nose.
Here is the latest mask guidance in detail.
2. Stay 2 metres apart
Previously the government advice on physical distancing has been to stay at least 1m apart, a shorter distance than many other countries recommend.
The public health council has now revised this guidance to 2m, and added that anyone who had been within 2m of an infected person will now be considered a contact case (previously only people who had been within 1m were considered contact cases)
3. Stay quiet on public transport
The medical council also advises people to avoid talking – in person or on the phone – on public transport, even while masked.
Masks are compulsory on all public transport in France – although as users will know some people seem to think a phone call is a reason to pull down their mask – but even with this protection, talking is not advised, since the aerosol diffusion of droplet infection is greater from talking.
This guidance is specific to public transport because it is frequently not possible on services to respect physical distancing rules, the council added. Chatting in the street or other public places is still allowed.