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Making masks mandatory outside counterproductive, says French GP

The doctor and opposition councillor for Biarritz said that the measure makes no sense. It comes as 24 departments across the country reimpose the restriction to fight rising Covid cases

A woman wears a mask outside. Making masks mandatory outside ‘counterproductive’, says French GP

The GP said that wearing masks outside makes no sense, but an epidemiologist said they do help in crowded areas Pic: Zigres / Shutterstock

Making masks mandatory outside to fight Covid-19 is a “counterproductive message”, a French GP and opposition councillor in Biarritz has said, in the same week as much of the country reimposes the rule.

Dr Guillaume Barucq told France Bleu that the measure makes no sense. He said: “People don’t spread [Covid] in the streets.”

It comes as the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department reimposes mandatory mask wearing outside in the communes of Anglet, Bayonne, Biarritz, Guéthary, Hendaye and Saint Jean-de-Luz. 

It is one of the 24 departments across the country to have reintroduced the measure this week.

Read more: Check mask-wearing and other rules in your area

The incidence rate (number of cases per 100,000 residents) in France is currently above the alert threshold in all but eight departments. 

In Dr Barucq’s area in the Pays Basque, the rate is at 425, considerably higher than the already-high 280 across the rest of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. 

But the GP says that requiring masks to be worn outside is not the answer.

He said: “They are what I call ‘umbrella measures’. We put them in place to show that we’re doing something, but actually, how effective are these measures? Right now, science is telling us that they are only slightly effective, if at all.

“This measure is counterproductive because well-ventilated spaces are part of the solution, not the problem. In most cases, we get infected in private, enclosed spaces, such as during a party. 

“I get the impression that this is muddying the message of how the virus is spread, which today is well-known. One year after the start of the crisis, we are still making the same mistakes.”

But epidemiologist Sophie Larrieu said that wearing a mask is necessary at the moment, especially in crowded, tourist areas.

She said: “When you walk and see the numbers of people, so close together on the beach, or on cafe terraces, we understand that there is a risk of getting infected outside, even if we think we’re protected.

“Wearing a mask outside allows you to protect yourself and others, if you are carrying the virus without knowing.”

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