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COVID-19: ESSENTIAL INFO

Where do you still need to wear a face mask in France?

From Thursday June 17th, wearing face masks outdoors is no longer compulsory in France. But that doesn't mean the end masks in France. Here's where you still need to wear them, even when you are outside.

Where do you still need to wear a face mask in France?
Masks remain compulsory in stadiums, queues, open air markets, busy places, public gatherings and public transport. Photo: Ludovic MARIN / AFP

In August last year, face masks were made compulsory in all public places – indoor and outdoor – in big cities across France.

The rule was maintained until Wednesday when Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that, thanks to daily coronavirus infections falling faster than anticipated, mask-wearing would no longer be compulsory outdoors.

But this doesn’t mean you can just leave your mask at home. Here’s why you’ll still need to make sure you have a mask or two with you.

READ ALSO: Why is France lifting Covid curfew and mask rules early?

Indoor spaces

Wearing masks in public indoor spaces, including shops, cinemas, theatres, cultural sites such as museums and galleries and offices remains compulsory for the moment.

Busy outdoor spaces

They are also meant to remain compulsory in stadiums, queues, open air markets, busy places, public gatherings.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said wearing a mask would remain the rule, “when we get together, when we are in a crowded place – a queue, in a market or in the stands of a stadium”.

Health minister Olivier Véran explained that there are various situations where you would have to wear the mask outdoors. “If you are in a queue on a crowded street then yes,” he told BFMTV. But “if you are in a park, in a square, wearing a face mask is not essential.” 

This also includes the areas outside public buildings such as schools, universities and religious buildings during busy hours.

READ ALSO: Face masks to cafés: What Covid-19 rules are still in place in France?

Schools

Pupils from primary age upwards will still need to wear masks inside schools, the government confirmed on Wednesday. But in a last minute change of heart the PM decided to end the obligation for youngsters to wear masks in the playground.

Public transport

Face masks were made compulsory in public transport in spring 2020 and this rule is set to stay in place for the foreseeable future.

This includes bus stops, as well as indoor and outdoor train and metro platforms.

Bars and cafes

You will still see staff in bars and restaurants wearing masks. 

All customers of restaurants, cafés and bars over the age of 11 must wear a mask at all times when moving around (such as going to to the toilet), both inside and on the terrace.

Masks can be taken off once you sit at a table, but should be kept on when ordering and paying.

Other outdoor areas depending where you are

Similarly to last summer, different areas in France are reporting variations in mask wearing. Rules are vary slightly in different parts of France. The préfecture of the Eure département, for example, included the surrounding 50m around train stations, shopping centres and religious buildings in its list of outdoor areas where mask-wearing is still required.

In Paris masks are required at outdoor markets and sales, in queues and in any gathering in a public place including platforms or bus stops on the public transport system and outside schools at pick-up and drop-off times.

According to Le Parisien, in the Gironde département masks are still compulsory in groups of 10 people or more, whenever maintaining a minimum distance of two metres is not possible.

Other cities have opted for requiring masks on certain streets, making it difficult to work out exactly when you are supposed to wear one.

In Bordeaux, the police préfecture announced that masks would remain compulsory in two of the city’s busiest shopping streets – rue Sainte-Catherine and Porte Dijeaux – from 12pm to 7pm.

In Lille, shoppers should also keep their masks on outside in busy shopping areas.

In Loire-Atlantique, mask-wearing is compulsory in “busy pedestrian streets”, but the prefecture did not provide details on specific streets.

The préfecture of Landes, on the other hand, did specify certain streets in four towns, including Dax and Soorts-Hossegor, where they are still required.

In the centre of Montpellier, they are compulsory from Friday to Saturday, from 2pm til 7pm, while in the neighbouring town of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, masks must be worn outside between those same hours, every day of the week.

Member comments

  1. Blame Peter Mayle for having to wear a mask in Saint Guilhem le Desert. If it weren’t for A year in Provence, nobody would be going there. And he’s left!

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COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The Minister of Health, Brigitte Bourguignon, said she is “asking the French to wear masks on public transport once again” during an interview with RTL on Monday, June 27th. She also recommended wearing a mask in all other enclosed crowded areas, as a “civic gesture.” However, she did not refer to the request as a government mandated obligation.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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