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COVID-19 RULES

Covid-19: France ends obligatory face mask rule on public transport

As of Monday May 16th face masks will no longer be mandatory on public transport in France.

Covid-19: France ends obligatory face mask rule on public transport
Commuters wear masks and sit in a train in Paris, France. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP)

As of May 16th, transport users will no longer have to wear face coverings, a measure that was implemented in spring 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“From Monday, May 16, masks will no longer be mandatory for all public transport,” Olivier Veran said after a weekly cabinet meeting.

“Wearing a mask remains recommended,” he added, but the rule is “no longer appropriate” given the large drop in Covid cases recently.

The only place where face masks will remain obligatory in France is in medical settings such as at the doctors or in hospitals. People who test positive will still be required to self-isolate.

Exactly two years ago, at the end of the first lockdown on May 11th, 2020, then-Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that face masks would be mandatory on public transport to help stop the spread of Covid-19.  

For the last three weeks, Covid-19 cases have been falling in France. As of Tuesday, May 10th, 56,449 new cases have been reported with 1,167 people admitted to the hospital. Over the past week, there have been an average of 37,637 new cases per day.

Since the start of the pandemic, France’s Health Ministry has reported 146,979 total deaths from Covid-19, with 594 deaths in the last week. 

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STRIKES

What to expect from Thursday’s strike in France

Thursday marks the third - and likely the most disruptive - in a series of three 'inter-professional' strikes called by the hardline CGT union in protest at the rising cost of living. From trains to planes, schools and Paris public transport, here's how services will be affected.

What to expect from Thursday's strike in France

The one-day strike on Thursday, November 10th, follows two one-day actions in late October and early November, but is set to be the most disruptive yet.

The action has been called by the hardline CGT union in protests at the rising cost of living and below-inflation pay increases that many sectors have experienced. The union is also angry at the government’s use of emergency strike-breaking powers during earlier strikes at oil refineries that led to widespread petrol and diesel shortages at filling stations.

Here’s how services will be impacted on Thursday;

Paris

This time, disruption will be heavily concentrated on the French capital, where workers on the RATP public transport network have overwhelmingly backed the strike, declaring a jeudi noir (black Thursday) for services.

On the Metro half the lines will not be running at all – namely lines 2, 3bis, 5, 8, 10, 11 and 12.

Lines 3, 4, 6, 7, 7bis, 9 and 13 will operate only during rush hours – 7am to 9.30am and 4.30pm to 7.30pm – and will run limited services during these times.

Lines 1 and 14, which are automated, will run as normal but are likely to be extremely busy.

On the RER, line A will run 1 in 3 of its normal services and will stop at 9pm, while line B – which connects Paris to its two airports – will run normal hours but with only half or 1 in 3 of its normal services. The other RER lines are operated by SNCF, and are not expected to be heavily disrupted.

The RER D saw some delays on Thursday morning, but this was due to a breakdown.

The frequency of bus services have been cut by a third, while tram operations are expected to be nearly normal, except for tram line 5 which will only have services between 5.30am and 10.30am, and 3.30pm and 8.30pm. Tram line 2 will run fewer services than normal. 

As of Thursday morning, over 30 stations were closed due to the industrial action, including some stations that have lines that are running. These include stations like Montparnasse Bienvenüe, Champs-Elysées Clémenceau and Miromesnil, according to RATP. You can see the full list HERE.

Although the capital will be the worst affected, there is likely to be some disruption to services in the rest of France. For example, in Strasbourg nearly 20 bus lines have been disrupted by strike action, but all other transport in the city remained at normal operating levels on Thursday morning. 

Trains – on the national rail network SNCF only one union – CGT-Cheminots – has announced that it will join the strike, which means disruption is likely to be very limited.

In other cities, such as Rouen and Montpellier, local rail workers also indicated their intention to strike. 

Postal workers – some staff at La Poste have indicated that they will strike, so there could be a delay in deliveries in some parts of the country.

Schools – the last strike took place during the school holidays, but schools are now back and some teachers have indicated that they intend to support the strike. The limited number who have declared so far means it is unlikely that schools will close, but some schools could see disruption to other services such as the canteen and after-school clubs.

Some local authorities – including Le Havre – have already announced that there will be “no school lunches, no after-school clubs” on Thursday. 

Health workers – some healthcare workers have also announced a strike, although strike rules mean that frontline staff such as doctors and nurses will remain at work, but might take part in demonstrations. Some auxiliary services such as medical testing laboratories may experience disruption.

Flights – airline workers and airport staff have not joined the strike – they mostly won pay increases after strike action over the summer – so flights will operate as normal.

Demonstrations – demos are also planned, although since most other unions have elected not to join the CGT these are likely to be small affairs. the CGT’s secretary general Céline Verzeletti says they expect “between 150 and 200” points of demonstration around the country. 

In Paris, the demonstration will take place at Place de la République and it will move in the direction of Place de l’Opéra, starting at 2pm. 

Traffic

As a result of the public transport strike, increased road traffic was reported on Thursday morning in the Paris region. As of 8 am, the traffic website Sytadin counted more than 338 km of traffic congestion in Ile-de-France.

Listen to the team at The Local France discuss all the latest news and talking points in the latest episode of our Talking France podcast. Download it here or listen below.

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