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.
“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.
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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.
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.