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Leading French doctor joins call for mandatory indoor masks

A top doctor in France has reiterated calls for masks to be made compulsory in all enclosed public areas, and called the choice not to wear a mask an “uncivil act”.

The recommendation comes after new Prime Minister Jean Castex visited the island of French Guiana on Sunday July 12, and said that ministers were seriously considering making masks compulsory in enclosed, indoor areas.

Dr Jacques Battistoni, president of medical union MG France, told news service FranceInfo: “I share the opinion of the Prime Minister when he analyses the situation [as] the risk of infections and number of clusters remains high.

“Several weeks ago our union already asked that people be made to wear masks in any areas where physical distancing is not possible, especially in indoor areas, in enclosed spaces in which the first contaminations started in March.”

Dr Battistoni’s comments also come as President Macron tweeted a reminder of safety measures that the public should continue to take, which included the statement: “As well as these gestures, wear a mask when the distance of one metre cannot be respected.”

Some users appeared to agree with the recent medical recommendations, with several comments on Mr Macron’s tweet asking him to make masks mandatory in enclosed spaces.

Dr Battistoni continued: “We don’t really associate masks with the idea of protecting yourself - when you wear a mask, you are protecting others, above all. And even if we are not afraid of becoming ill, we could ourselves contaminate others even before we know if we have symptoms.

“People must tell themselves that not wearing a mask is an uncivil act towards society in an area where you cannot keep a sufficient distance.

“Today, we have [enough] masks, so we must use them. Before, we didn’t have enough masks and we should have done. But just because we didn’t do well enough before, doesn’t mean that we should continue to act badly.

“Very probably, if we had had masks in February and March, we could have avoided a certain number of outbreaks, as in countries such as Germany, where there were not as many cases because people had more protection.”

At the moment, wearing a mask in public spaces is not compulsory in France, except on public transport.


Second wave caution

Commenting on the possibility of a second wave of the virus - which some experts have said is ‘inevitable’ but others have suggested is not on the horizon for France - Dr Battistoni added: “This is something that we are preparing for - health professionals, and GPs especially - telling ourselves that we are going to have to stay very alert, meaning that we have tests, and that we should test anyone with symptoms, with a view to allowing people to self-isolate and not contaminate others.

“We will have to begin this rentrée [new academic year in September] with extreme caution.”

Read more: Covid-19 second wave 'not on horizon' in France

Read more: ‘Real risk’ of second wave of Covid-19

Mandatory masks

Dr Battistoni’s comments also come as 14 doctors signed an open letter at the weekend, calling for the same thing.

The letter 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 it!”

Related stories

Doctors in France call for face masks in indoor public areas

Top doctor: French are 'abandoning' Covid-19 protections

Q&A: When do I need to wear a mask?

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