France to drop face mask rules where health passport is in use

Wearing a face mask will no longer be necessary in public places in France where a health passport is required - unless local rules dictate otherwise.

France to drop face mask rules where health passport is in use
Photo: Alain Jocard | AFP

The new mask rule is in a decree published in the Journal Officiel and came into effect on Wednesday – the same day as the expansion of the health passport scheme – despite rising cases of Covid-19 across France.

ALSO READ: When, where and why you’ll need a health pass in France

“Where the health pass is used” people “will be able to remove the mask”, because “it means we are sure that all people who enter are fully vaccinated or have a very recent test that is negative,” Health Minister Olivier Véran told RTL.

He later told MPs on Tuesday, July 20th, that 18,000 new cases of Covid-19 had been reported in France in the last 24 hours – compared to about 7,000 cases just a week previously.

“This means that we have an increase in the circulation of the virus of the order of 150 percent over a week: we have never experienced this, neither with the Covid, nor with the variants,” Véran said in the National Assembly during early discussions on a bill to extend the pass sanitaire.

The health passport is being extended in a series of phases – from July 21st it is compulsory in cultural spaces such as cinemas, while from August 1st it will be compulsory in a range of spaces including cafés, shopping centres and long-distance trains. Employees in health passport venues and children aged between 12 and 17 will be exempt from the requirement, but only until August 30th.

The decree states that wearing a mask in public places subject to health pass restrictions will not be necessary, unless there is a specific and justified ruling in place by the local authorities or the establishment’s owners.

Meanwhile, staff working in public places subject to new health pass restrictions will still be required to wear masks, until the requirement for them to be fully vaccinated, too, takes effect. 

“Wearing a mask remains the rule in the workplace,” the Health Ministry said in a statement. “The pass sanitaire will be mandatory from August 30th for employees [in places where health passes are required]. It is not envisaged for the moment to remove [the mask mandate] for employees.”

But the decree allows for local authorities to overrule it.  “The wearing of the mask may however be made mandatory by the departmental prefect when local circumstances justify it, as well as by the operator or organiser,” the decree states.

The national rule on wearing face masks in the street has been lifted, but several areas in France have reintroduced it through local decrees. 

READ ALSO Which French towns have reimposed rules on face masks in the streets?

A cluster of 81 new cases of Covid-19 have been linked to a single nightclub in Bordeaux, where events took place over three days. The Agence régionale de santé of Nouvelle Aquitaine reported that some attendees at the events had questioned whether health pass checks were properly carried out.

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Revealed: The best cities in France to be a student

Every year, QS best student cities releases its ranking of the world's most student-friendly locations. This year four French cities made the list.

Revealed: The best cities in France to be a student

As a student, some cities are more attractive than others. Each year QS rankings assess 140 cities around the world based on what they have to offer students in terms of their affordability, quality of life, the opinions of former students who studied there, as well as general desirability, employer activity, and how many students live there. 

This year, for the 2023 ranking, five French cities – Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, and Montpellier – made the list, with Paris making the top 10. 

Paris, Lyon and Toulouse have been listed in the ‘best cities’ ranking for several years, but this will be the first year for Montpellier. In order to be included, the population must be a minimum of 250,000 people and the city must be home to at least two universities that have been listed in the QS World University Rankings.

READ ALSO 8 ways to save money as a student in France

This year, France’s cities have moved up in the list. Across the board, two factors improved: “student mix” and desirability. The former measures what proportion of the city is made up of students, as well as the diversity of students and the inclusivity of the city and country for students, while the latter measures general questions like safety, pollution, and how appealing the city is to respondents.

On the other hand, affordability and “student voice” – the rating students gave the city’s friendliness, sustainability, diversity, etc, as well as how many students continue to live there after graduation – went down this year. However, affordability has decreased across the board in student cities around the world. 

France’s cities

Paris – The French capital came in 8th place worldwide and remains an extremely attractive destination for potential students. Paris is home to nine institutions ranked on the QS World University Rankings, and scored well with employment prospects.

The city came in seventh place for “employer activity” this year. The ranking said this is due to Paris graduates being “highly respected by employers” and that “there are lots of international firms based in the city’s business district which frequently hire skilled graduates.” In the student survey, the prospect of being surrounded by “beautiful monuments, history and culture” was appealing, as well as Paris’ nightlife. 

READ ALSO These are the culture shocks you will experience as a foreign student in Paris

Lyon – The gastronomy centre of France ranked 45th in the world, scoring well in terms of “student mix” and affordability. Lyon was credited for low tuition fees for international students. In surveys, students reported enjoying the ‘diversity of students from across the world’ in Lyon.

Toulouse – La ville rose in France’s south west moved up eight places in the ranking this year. Making it into the top 100, Toulouse came out at 78th. Toulouse was praised for its cost of living, as the city offers significantly lower average costs for rent – for example, a one bedroom apartment in the city centre an average of €712 per month, compared to €1,410 in Paris.

Montpellier – This year was Montpellier’s debut on the list, ranking 199th. The city performed well for its first year, especially in terms of affordability – ranking 35th.  

What about the non-French cities?

An overall trend is that cities are becoming less affordable for students.

In terms of rankings, London, held onto its first place spot, which it has had for the past four years, while Seoul and Munich tied for second place. The other European cities to make the top 10 list were Zurich (4th) and Berlin (6th).