LATEST: French ministers to hold urgent crisis meeting to discuss extra Covid measures

President Emmanuel Macron, government ministers and scientific advisors are to meet on Friday to discuss whether to implement further new Covid restrictions in France.

Doctors attend to a Covid patient in France. New restrictions may be on the way.
Doctors attend to a Covid patient in France. New restrictions may be on the way. (Photo by Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP)

France’s Health Minister, Olivier Véran, has announced that the Health Defence Council will “most likely” meet on Friday afternoon to discuss implementing “extra measures” to tackle the worsening Covid pandemic. 

“The fifth wave is probably the strongest one that we have seen since the start of the pandemic,” he told MPs on Wednesday. 

The infection rate in France has now passed 500 per 100,000 people over seven days – the highest recorded level throughout the pandemic.

The government is already predicting that 4,000 patients will be lying in intensive care units over the festive period and has called on the public to limit social gatherings and for an increase in remote working.

Whilst France appears the recent rise in infections in France has levelled off in recent days at around 50,000 a day, the prospect of a new spike in cases caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant has sparked concern in the government.

Véran told MPs that 170 cases had been detected in the country so far but the real figure is likely far higher.

Speaking after the meeting of the Council of Ministers on Wednesday, Gabriel Attal, the government spokesperson suggested there could be “new decisions by the end of the week (…) over the necessary measures to take”.

He suggested that an accelerated vaccination campaign and tighter border controls could be on the agenda as well as a reminder of recommendations on family gatherings over Christmas. It has been suggested France could cut the time period between second and third vaccine doses down to three months from five in order to get booster jabs to more people. 

He also mentioned possible changes to travel rules for passengers coming from the UK earlier in the week

So far during this fifth wave the French government has been reluctant to reimpose curfews and lockdowns. 

But the EU health agency ECDC on Wednesday warned that vaccinations alone would not stop the rise of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, and said “strong action” was urgently needed.

“In the current situation, vaccination alone will not allow us to prevent the impact of the Omicron variant, because there will be no time to address the vaccination gaps that still exist,” Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said in a statement.

Member comments

  1. The South African chief medical officer and media reports are bluntly stating that the UK reaction to Omicron is an over reaction and alarmist. They’re saying that the strain is super-infectious and supplanting all other strains but is mild in its effect – to the point where hospitalisations are limited to a couple of days and not interfering with normal capacity. This was how the Spanish flu ended , with a strain that lost its lethality. We’ll know in the next few weeks if Omicron is a disaster or the end of the pandemic.

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Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).