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TRAVEL NEWS

France says children must wear masks on transport from age six

Children on French public transport will soon have to wear a face mask from the age of six upwards, the government decreed Saturday, as part of its latest measures against coronavirus.

Passengers wait near a sign reading
Passengers wait near a sign reading "A ticket, a mask, a health pass" at the Gare de Lyon station in Paris. As of Monday, rail passengers will not be allowed to remove their masks to eat or drink. GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

Masks had previously been compulsory from the age of 11, but Paris is tightening regulations given the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Children aged six and older will have to don a mask on all means of public transport within national borders from Monday, while carriers will not serve any food or drink for three weeks from the same date.

Prime Minister Jean Castex had flagged up the drinks and food ban on transport last Monday.

A spokesperson for the SNCF national railway operator indicated the latest restrictions mean passengers will not be permitted to remove their face masks even to eat or drink, save for cross-border services including Thalys and Eurostar.

Restaurant services will be suspended on high-speed TGV and inter-city services as from Monday until January 23, SNCF said in response to the decree.

Daily Covid-19 cases in France have been hitting one record high after another in recent days, with the authorities announcing 232,200 new infections on Friday, the most since the start of the pandemic.

But the government has so far tried to avoid measures like closing down restaurants and bars, instead encouraging all to become fully vaccinated with booster shots.

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Member comments

  1. Fair enough, but if masks are required to be worn on public transport by children aged 6+, why are they not required to wear them in shops? We will not be then faced by the current situation of parents in shops, diligently wearing their masks, whilst their entourage of maskless children run about, coughing and spluttering around the shop, potentially spreading the virus. If the child is unable or unwilling to wear a mask in the shop, leave it at home.

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ENVIRONMENT

Drought-hit Mont Blanc shuts shelters to dissuade hikers

Authorities in the French Alps said Friday they had closed down two popular mountain shelters used by Mont Blanc climbers because of potentially deadly drought-related rockfalls.

Drought-hit Mont Blanc shuts shelters to dissuade hikers

In a year marked by drought and heatwaves, rockfalls and gaping crevices have made access to the top of Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest mountain, even more difficult and perilous.

The mayor’s office in the Mont Blanc village of Saint-Gervais, said climbers were in “mortal danger” from rocks and shards coming loose because of dry weather and dropping from a height.

“All day long, we still see climbers going on the mountain range, all the time, as if this was Disneyland or the Parc Asterix,” said Saint-Gervais mayor Jean-Marc Peillex, in reference to two popular theme parks near Paris.

Hikers had been advised since last month to stay away because of the danger, but “they just don’t give a damn,” he told AFP.

READ MORE: ‘To pay funeral costs’ – Why Mont Blanc mayor wants to charge climbers

The closure of the two mountain shelters — Gouter with 120 overnight spots and Tete Rousse with 74, as well as a base camp accommodating up to 50 people — was to “show clearly that there is no accommodation available”.

The authorities had warned for weeks that falling rocks were a danger, he said, adding that crossing the Gouter mountain corridor represented “a mortal danger”, he said.

Nevertheless, 79 people stayed at the Gouter shelter Thursday night, he said.

The shelters will remain shut until normal weather conditions return, the mayor said, probably not before early September.

Peillex had warned Wednesday that Saint-Gervais would require a deposit of €15,000 from each hiker, saying the sum represented the average cost of a rescue operation and a funeral.

He was, however, advised that French law offers no basis for such a move.

A lack of snow during the winter has laid bare vast areas of greyish glacier — yellowish where sand dust from the Sahara has accumulated — riven with fractures on the Mont Blanc.

The heat did the rest, causing the fragile snow bridges to melt that make it possible to cross the crevasses, as well as leading to landslides.

Following several heatwaves, France is in the grip of severe drought, blamed by scientists on climate change.

On Friday, 100 municipalities across the country were without drinking water, Environment Minister Christophe Bechu said.

Calling the drought “historic”, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called a crisis meeting Friday to seek solutions.

Scientists say human-induced climate change is amplifying extreme weather — including the heatwaves, droughts and floods seen in several parts of the planet in recent weeks — and say these events will become more frequent and more intense.

The international community has agreed that climate change poses an existential threat to human systems and the natural world.

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