Jean Castex told the Senate today (July 16): “I have heard and understood that this [original] deadline appeared late and raised further questions.”
From Monday July 20, the public will be required to cover their mouths and noses when in enclosed or confined public spaces, especially shops, and especially sites in which physical distancing is impossible.
Mr Castex said: “We had envisaged that these rules would come into force [from August 1] because we are working preventatively, not in haste. But I have heard and understood that this [original] deadline appeared late and raised further questions.
“The decree will therefore come into force from next week.”
The government has not yet officially confirmed what the penalty will be for people who do not comply. Masks are already mandatory on public transport, with fines of €135 for anyone who does not comply.
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal told news service FranceInfo: “When you put a mandatory rule in place, there must be a sanction on the other hand.” He did not specify further details.
The new rule comes after many senior doctors in France called for masks to be made mandatory in enclosed public spaces. Authorities in the department of Mayenne (Pays de la Loire) also decried the delay until August 1, as the area is on “high vulnerability” alert due to a recent spike in Covid-19 cases.
Mayenne departmental council, Olivier Richefou, told the Agence France-Presse: “We are able to lockdown France within 48 hours, but we have to wait three weeks to be made to wear a mask? It’s risible.”
Similarly, geneticist Axel Kahn, told news service FranceInfo: “I do not really see why we need to wait 15 days [to make masks compulsory].”
In an open letter published in newspaper Le Parisien on Saturday July 11, a group of high-profile health professionals said: “We now know that barrier methods [such as physical distancing and wearing masks] are effective preventative methods.
“Wearing a mask is an important condition to limit the spread of the virus...Wearing a mask is not only to protect yourself, but also to prevent the spread of the virus; as long as everyone wears one.”
Senior doctor and scientific advisor, Professor Jean-François Delfraissy has also warned that the public was "abandoning" barrier methods and safety recommendations.
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