Two hospitals in south west France have reintroduced the compulsory wearing of face masks following rising cases of coronavirus.
Until September 2, staff, patients and visitors at Layné hospital in Mont-de-Marsan (Landes, Nouvelle Aquitaine) will be required to wear surgical masks inside the building.
After then, the situation will be reevaluated and the measure will either be extended to stop the spread of the virus or dropped.
Arcachon hospital (Gironde) introduced similar measures on August 10 for one week, and this was then extended for a second week from August 17.
The examples of these two hospitals are raising questions about whether the reintroduction of masks will be brought in in other hospitals across France.
When this question was posed to health minister Aurélien Rousseau during an interview with BFMTV on Monday (August 21), he stated that at the moment, the need for masks across the country was not needed because the new variants of concern are being monitored.
Speaking of the new variants, particularly the emergence of Omicron Eris, which has been deemed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a subvariant to watch, Mr Rousseau said: “Today the mutations that we are aware of do not appear to have a dangerous nature or a particularly worrying rate of infection.”
He added that the slight rise in Covid infections had had very little impact on hospitals.
However, despite this Mr Rosseau is still encouraging the population to normalise the wearing of masks when they have symptoms, even in this post epidemic climate.
The health minister urged people with symptoms to wear a mask saying: “It’s the first step as soon as we have symptoms, as soon as we are in contact with vulnerable people, we need to return to the reflex of putting on a mask. Masks must be normal when we have symptoms.”
In Landes and the south west in general, Covid cases have exploded largely due to the Bayonne celebrations for which 1.3 million people gathered.
Elsewhere in the country, health officials have observed a “slight increase” in the number of cases
The resurgence of cases is not surprising; the virus is more likely to spread during large gatherings of people such as at organised events in summer.
Despite the rise in cases, health services have assured that they are “not worried” and “remain vigilant” in the face of Covid.
A new programme of vaccinations will be rolled out in the autumn, which will first be offered to those who are most vulnerable.