Several communes in central France have reintroduced mask-wearing in outside areas in a bid to combat rising Covid cases.
The new rules mean that masks must be worn in outside spaces, including open air markets, spaces where the health pass must be shown to enter, and at public gatherings such as protests, from this week until December 31.
Communes affected are in the Loir-et-Cher department.
Masks must also be worn inside spaces where health passes are required to enter, such as restaurants.
The incidence rate (the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days) has been rising in the department since the beginning of October and is currently at 74.
This puts it above the alert threshold of 50 but below the national average, which reached 100.2 yesterday (November 15) – the first time it has been over 100 in two months.
Local authorities in the department’s main town of Blois said the decision from the prefecture was good news. Mayor Marc Gricourt told BFMTV: “It is better to prevent than treat [Covid cases], so to avoid a high number of cases of the virus we have to take as many precautionary measures as possible.”
Some members of the public were less convinced. One said: “I don’t think it will be very useful outside in Blois, personally. Maybe it would be in a town like Tours or Lyon where there are a lot of people.”
Camille Prette, co-manager of a bar in the town, told BFMTV: “Our customers tend to take off their masks inside once we’ve checked their health passes.”
She said it was difficult to make them understand why they now have to continue wearing face coverings inside.
“It can create tensions and misunderstanding. We have a rule that isn’t necessarily what we would do, but we are adapting to it,” she said.
‘No plans’ for confinement this winter
It comes as government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said the government was in “a state of alert” due to rising Covid cases.
Speaking to France Inter this morning (November 16), Mr Attal said the government was open to all measures to stop the spread of the virus “on principle”, but that “there are absolutely no plans to reintroduce confinement, either in the short or long-term” in France.
Instead, he said that vaccination efforts including booster doses – which have so far been given to around 4.5 million people, according to Mr Attal – must continue.
He said a further 810,000 had booked booster doses on the site Doctolib following President Emmanuel Macron’s speech on November 9, in which Mr Macron explained that eligible people must have booster doses in order for their health passes to remain valid after December 15.
Currently people aged 65 and over or with conditions that make them vulnerable to the virus are eligible for booster doses in France.
In December, people aged 50 and over will become eligible.
Mr Attal said it would be “logical” for the same rules to be applied to this age group, meaning they would have to get the booster dose in order to have a valid health pass.
Mr Attal said he hoped that the immunity granted by vaccines would mean that future confinements would not be necessary.
He said: “We have built a wall with the vaccines and we must make sure it doesn’t crack.”