Face masks to protect against Covid-19 could once again become mandatory in France this winter, as the government considers the move to fight against the mounting ‘eighth wave’ of the virus.
Although there are currently no rules in place regarding masks, the public are still advised to wear one in crowded indoor public spaces, such as busy train carriages.
Brigitte Autran, president of the comité de veille et d'anticipation des risques sanitaires (COVARS), which monitors health risks, told RMC this week: “Today, so far, no one is reintroducing obligatory masks, but everyone is considering it.”
If the rule is re-introduced, masks could become mandatory in certain areas, such as on public transport. Masks are considered to be an effective barrier against Covid-19, especially if everyone wears one, despite not offering 100% protection.
Antoine Flahaut, expert epidemiologist and director of the Global Health Institute at Geneva University, said: “We know very well that masks are not hermetic [a full seal], but if you are infected despite wearing a mask, you will have received a far lower viral load than if you breathed it in [without a mask].”
Masks were previously required across France at the height of the Covid pandemic and subsequent waves, especially in enclosed spaces, on public transport, and in crowded areas.
The last mandatory rules were lifted on May 16, and on August 1 in hospitals.
For now, the Health Ministry is calling on people to remain “alert”, “be responsible”, and “use common sense”.
It comes as France launches a new vaccination campaign for at-risk people, with updated vaccines that have been designed to fight particularly against the Omicron subvariant.
The most recent figures show that there were 89,185 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours (up 21.2% over the past week), with a 24.4% positive test rate.
Some other European countries still have mask restrictions; Italy, for example, is requiring FFP2 masks to be worn in hospitals until October 31.