How likely is it France will scrap mandatory face masks in the workplace?

Most French workers are against forced masked wearing at work according to a new poll.
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
A new poll shows that the overwhelming majority of French workers want the enforcement of mask wearing overturned. But national health authorities say it's still too soon.

A poll conducted by Ipsos-Sopra Steria, and newspaper Le Parisien, found that a whopping 74 percent of salaried workers in France want to be given the option to not wear masks at work. 

The survey of 1,118 people conducted in late September and published on Monday found that just 8 percent of the French workforce were resolutely in favour of keeping the mandatory mask rule at the office. 

Under French law, employers are required to “take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and physical and mental health of workers.” 

At present, mask wearing is obligatory in all public-facing jobs, in closed indoor workplaces and work vehicles where there is more than one person at a time. For those employed in workshops or outside, mask wearing is not currently necessary unless a 2 meter social distancing gap cannot be maintained or unless there is not sufficient ventilation. 

READ MORE: Remote working, office parties – These are the new health rules in French workplaces

Public dissatisfaction with current mask regulations is reflective of the fact that most of the population are vaccinated according to Brice Teinturier – the head of Ipsos France. 

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“We are in the logic of what Emmanuel Macron declared last July: it is not up to the vaccinated to put up with restrictions made by those who oppose it [vaccination],” he told Le Parisien

Workers in the French capital complained about the measure to The Local. 

“I respect the rule but I don’t think it is justified,” said Maâti Cherakaoui, a 43-year-old engineer. “I don’t know how useful it is in preventing the spread of the virus.” 

Victor Dentas, a 40-year-old security guard was more straightforward. “It is limiting in the sense that masks are just not very comfortable,” he said. “I think that by the time 90 percent of the population is vaccinated, they will not be so useful.” 

READ MORE: Health pass, indoor masks, end to free tests – France announces new Covid measures

At present, 84 percent of the French population over the age of 12 is vaccinated. But France’s High Council of Public Health insists that “the best strategy to reduce the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus is to combine masks with physical distancing. Wearing a mask is the only effective measure when a physical distance of at least 1 meter is not guaranteed.”

A meta-analysis of six separate peer-reviewed papers found that mask wearing can reduce the risk of catching covid by 60 percent. 

Vaccinated people are at less risk of falling seriously ill from COVID-19, but can still get infected and transmit the virus to others – this is scientific fact.

Abandoning mandatory mask regulations also risks putting those with various chronic conditions at risk. Renaloo, a patients’ association for people with kidney illness tweeted: ‘Removing masks from the workplace would exclude those who are seriously immunosuppressed.’ 

According to Covaxinfo, a health science website run by Professor Yonathan Freund, an emergency medicine doctor, vaccinated people should continue to wear masks. “For as long as not enough people are vaccinated and the virus continues to circulate, the respect of protective measures is indispensable,” he wrote.  

The poll, published in Le Parisien, found that 67% of respondents wanted to see the health pass (passe sanitaire) used as requirement to enter the work place. For now, it is only obligatory for workers in direct contact with the public. The health pass could remain a facet of life in France up until the summer of 2022.

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