People in France should begin to wear face masks once again in public transport “to protect themselves against a very transmissible variant” as Covid case numbers rise, the health minister has said.
Brigitte Bourguignon has called on people to recognise their “civic duty” and to “put their masks back on” in buses, trains and metro services, during an interview on RTL yesterday evening (June 27).
However, she added that this will not be reinstated as a mandatory requirement: “I am only recommending it, I’m asking”.
Ms Bourguignon said that her advice was based on “an obvious rebound” in French Covid case numbers, and that wearing a mask would help to “protect others, especially the most vulnerable,” in enclosed spaces.
She added that wearing a mask can help to limit Covid transmission in all indoor spaces, including workplaces and shops.
“It is enough to see a station concourse or a packed train to know that, first of all, you need to protect yourself and others,” she said.
Ms Bourguignon’s recommendations come after Professor Alain Fischer, who leads the government's Conseil d'orientation de la stratégie vaccinale, said that reintroducing mask-wearing on public transport is "probably sensible”.
He added that the idea would “certainly” be helpful for “vulnerable people and probably for the whole population, because it is a collective protective measure and by making the small effort to wear a mask, we contribute to protecting at-risk people."
BA4 and BA5 subvariants fuel new case wave
There were 17,601 new Covid cases recorded in France yesterday. This is lower than the average of 50,000 daily cases which has begun to emerge in recent weeks, but the drop is likely due to a delay in infections being reported over the weekend.
In general, case numbers have risen by 52% over the past week, with the positivity rate of tests carried out increasing by 18% to 27.5%.
The infection rebound is being driven by the BA4 and BA5 subvariants of Omicron, which are more transmissible, but are not thought to be more virulent than previous strains.
Appeal to vulnerable groups to get vaccinated
Ms Bourguignon also called for eligible people to take up their offer of a second booster vaccine dose.
This additional dose is open to over-60s, care home residents and immunosuppressed patients.
Ms Bourguignon added that a decision would “probably” be made to extend the fourth dose vaccination campaign to the wider French population.
Ms Bourguignon will be stepping down from her post as health minister during the next cabinet reshuffle in July, after having lost her Pas-de-Calais seat to the Rassemblement National candidate Christine Engrand during the legislative elections.
Hier, à une très courte majorité, les électeurs de la 6e circonscription du Pas-de-Calais ont fait le choix d'élire la candidate du Rassemblement National. Je prends acte de ce résultat et veux remercier l'ensemble des personnes qui m'ont soutenue au cours de cette campagne. ⤵️— Brigitte Bourguignon (@BrigBourguignon) June 20, 2022