Rise in mask-related violence in France as rules imposed
There has been a rise in the number of violent incidents linked to new requirements for people to wear masks in public places across much of France, as more and more towns introduce the measure.
A police source in Brest (Finistère) reported that this weekend, a man stabbed a bouncer outside a bar, after the bouncer refused him entry as he was not wearing a mask. Similarly, drivers on public transport networks have reported the majority of violent incidents are mask related.
It has been mandatory to wear a mask on public transport since the start of deconfinement in May.
Most victims appear to be either the driver - especially on buses - or passengers attempting to make others adhere to the rules. In one case in Neuilly-sur-Marne (Seine-Saint-Denis), a nurse was assaulted on a bus for trying to make another passenger wear a mask.
And in early July, in a case that shocked France, Bayonne bus driver Philippe Monguillot was beaten and left brain dead - leading to his eventual death - after he tried to refuse entry to a group of people who were not wearing masks.
In late July, a drunk bus passenger was given a four-month prison sentence after refusing to wear a mask and threatening the driver, on a bus in the Tarn in southern France.
In Lille (Hauts-de-France), police officers have noticed that some people become irate when asked to wear a mask in the street.
A police source told Le Journal du Dimanche: “In some neighborhoods, mask checks can be tense.” The officer added that he had fined 15 people for not wearing a mask in the town centre on Friday afternoon (August 14).
In some areas, extra staff are being employed - in support and sometimes instead of the police - to attempt to diffuse the situation.
In Noirmoutier (Vendée, Pays de la Loire), council staff are in charge of asking people to wear a mask, while in Hendaye (Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Nouvelle-Aquitaine), specially-trained meditators are on the ground, rather than the police.
Mandatory mask-wearing spreads
The reports come as mandatory mask-wearing becomes more and more common in public places across France - even in outdoor spaces, such as open-air markets - and the number of Covid-19 cases rise.
The city of Creil (Oise, Hauts-de-France) has now made it mandatory to wear masks everywhere, all the time - a first for the country.
Since Monday August 10, many public and outdoor areas of Paris have made the practice compulsory, while in the southern city of Marseille, measures are also spreading, particularly in the busiest shopping streets and touristy areas.
In many areas, masks are now mandatory in spaces in which physical distancing is considered to be impossible.
Non-wearing of a mask can be punished by a €135 fine.
The rules come after Prime Minister Jean Castex called for “vigilance, discipline” and more mask-wearing as cases of Covid-19 continue to rise across the country.
He called on the public to normalise the wearing of masks everywhere, even outdoors, and added: “We must go further...to avoid taking a step back towards a significant reconfinement.”