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LIVING IN FRANCE

Could France relax Covid face mask rules this summer?

As France begins reopening after its partial lockdown, Health Minister Olivier Véran said he "sincerely hopes" wearing masks outside will no longer be necessary this summer.

Could France relax Covid face mask rules this summer?
A sign in Montpellier reminding pedestrians of the mask rule. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

“What we know for sure is that the vaccine protects us from serious forms [of Covid-19],” he said in an interview with Europe 1 on Tuesday.

“What we strongly believe that … the vaccine protects us from infection, and therefore the risk of spreading the virus and causing an epidemic. 

“When we have vaccinated enough people, we can lower our guard.”

Nearly 16.5 million people in France have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, and nearly 7 million have had both doses, according to latest government figures. 

 

The government has said that it is on track to reach its target of 20 million people by mid-May. It aims to have given at least one dose of the vaccine to every adult who wants it by the end of the summer.

There is also a four-step schedule in place for reopening venues such as cafés, gyms and theatres, but Véran said he was unable to be more precise on a possible date for ending the mask requirement.

IN DETAIL The calendar for reopening France

“I cannot give a date today, it would not be honest on my part,” he said.

But he added: “Once we can meet again and consider the end of the barrier gestures and the end of [wearing a] mask outside, we will not wait 24 hours. We will say so immediately. And I sincerely hope that it will be this summer.

“The control of the epidemic is accelerating discreetly, but we must not relax too quickly.” 

Masks are compulsory in all indoor public spaces in France, and wearing a mask outside became obligatory in many towns and cities from August 2020 after Prime Minister Jean Castex called on authorities to introduce local restrictions.

It remains a requirement in most larger cities and town and around 400 other communes and breaking the rules can net you a €135 fine.

However some are already loosening the requirements on mask-wearing outdoors. A prefectoral decree active in Reims, Tinqueux, Cormontreuil and Betheny ended on May 3rd. The Alpes-Maritimes département, which includes Nice, relaxed the obligation to wear masks on the beach, along the coast and green spaces on May 4th.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

Traffic warnings for France ahead of holiday weekend

This weekend represents the first chance to 'faire le pont' and have a long holiday weekend - and the French seem set to make the most of it with warnings of extremely heavy traffic from Wednesday.

Traffic warnings for France ahead of holiday weekend

Thursday, May 26th marks the Christian festival of Ascension and is a public holiday in France.

More importantly, it’s the first time this year that French workers have had the opportunity to faire le pont (do the bridge) and create a long weekend.

In France, most public holidays fall on different days each year and if they happen to fall on the weekend then there are no extra days off work.

This year that happened on New Year’s Day (a Saturday) and both of the early May public holidays (the workers’ holiday on May 1st and VE Day on May 8th, which both fell on a Sunday).

READ ALSO Why 2022 is a bad year for public holidays

But as Ascension is on a Thursday, workers have the option to take a day of annual leave on Friday and therefore create a nice four-day weekend.

And it appears that many are planning on doing just that, as the traffic forecaster Bison futé is predicting extremely heavy traffic from Wednesday evening, as people prepare to make their after-work getaway and head to the coast, the countryside or the mountains to fully profit from their holiday weekend.

According to Bison futé maps, the whole country is coloured red – very heavy traffic – on both Wednesday and Thursday as people take to the roads to leave the cities.

Map: Bison futé

Meanwhile Sunday is coloured black – the highest level, meaning extremely heavy traffic and difficult driving conditions – across the whole country. 

Map: Bison futé

If you were hoping to take the train instead you might be out of luck, SNCF reports that most TGV services are sold out for over the holiday weekend. 

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