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HEALTH

Rule on masks outdoors in France could be relaxed ‘by July 1st’

The requirement to wear masks in outdoor public spaces could be lifted as France enters the final stage of relaxing health restriction on June 30th, according to Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon.

Rule on masks outdoors in France could be relaxed 'by July 1st'
The mask requirement in the streets could be dropped. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

Wearing a mask outdoor should no longer be required as soon as July 1st “if the health situation allows it”, Salomon told  RTL radio.  

However, “wearing a mask indoors will remain an obligation,” he said, adding that social distancing measures will still have to be respected. 

His comments echo those of several other senior French politicians who have envisaged the relaxation of outdoor mask rules over the summer, although this is the first time that a specific date has been mentioned.

In May, Minister of Health Olivier Véran said wearing masks outdoors “could end soon,” adding it depended on the vaccination rate and if the number of cases continued to fall. 

Case numbers in France continue to fall sharply and the national incidence rate has fallen to below 50 cases per 100,000 people for the first time since August 2020.

Masks are compulsory in all indoor public spaces in France, including workplaces, shops and on public transport.

Mask rules in outdoor public spaces are a matter for local authorities, although almost all authorities introduced a rule in August 2020, after Prime Minister Jean Castex called on them to introduce local restrictions.

In recent weeks, several local authorities have relaxed their rules on outdoor mask-wearing. 

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.

Since May 20th, wearing a mask on Biarritz’s waterfront in the Basque country is no longer mandatory, but it is still required in the city centre, around schools and markets. 

In the city of Bourges, in central France, the préfecture lifted the obligation in the city centre on May 27th, but people still have to wear a mask on public transports, in train stations and in markets.  

In the département of Bouches-du-Rhône – which includes France’s second biggest city Marseille – local authorities ended the outdoor mask rule on beaches, in parks, gardens and forests on June 2nd. 

In the département of Savoie in the French Alps, wearing a mask outdoor ended on June 10th, except in some towns and major cities such as Chambéry. 

Wearing a mask is no longer mandatory in the départment of Lozère in the Occitanie region in Southern France, in the city of Arcachon on the Atlantic coast and in communes with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants in the Puy de Dôme départment. 

Everywhere else masks remain compulsory outdoors, including in Paris.

Failure to comply with local or national mask rules can net you a €135 fine.

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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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