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COVID-19 ALERT

Paris cancels New Year fireworks as Omicron fears deepen

Paris on Saturday said it was calling off its New Year fireworks as Europe braced for tighter curbs to rein in a highly mutated strain of the coronavirus that is fuelling a resurgence in Covid-19 cases across the world.

People take pictures of the fireworks erupting in the sky over the Arc de Triomphe during the New Year's celebrations on the Champs Elysees avenue, in Paris
In this file photo taken on December 31st, 2019 people take pictures of the fireworks erupting in the sky over the Arc de Triomphe during the New Year's celebrations on the Champs Elysees avenue, in Paris. Martin BUREAU / AFP

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has warned that the Omicron variant could be dominant in Europe by mid-January.

Many countries have decided to reintroduce travel restrictions and other containment measures since it was first detected in South Africa last month.

A scientific panel that advises the French government urged “significant restrictions” on new year festivities, and the capital announced “with regret” that it was cancelling all events on the Champs Elysees.

“The fireworks will not take place, nor unfortunately, will there be any DJ sets,” the Paris mayor’s office told AFP.

This came as new restrictions on travel between the UK and France came into effect in the early hours of Saturday morning.

After midnight French time, travellers need to show a compelling reason for travel between the two countries, under shock new rules announced on Thursday by France to combat the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Throughout Europe, edgy governments are bringing back restrictions to fight the pandemic, which has killed at least 5,335,968 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019.

A number of countries are opening up their immunisation drives to younger children, even though the EU’s health agency has warned that jabs alone will not be sufficient to stop the variant’s rise. Portugal began vaccinating the over-fives on Saturday, while Denmark started its vaccination drive of the younger age group in November.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran said the rollout of the vaccine against Covid-19 to children in France would begin on Wednesday.

“If all goes well, we will start vaccination of children on the afternoon of December 22nd in specially adapted centres,” he told France Inter radio on Saturday.

READ ALSO: LATEST: French gov to push for Vaccine pass to replace health pass

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COVID-19

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).

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