SNCF joins calls to bring back mask-wearing on French public transport

The government has already encouraged people to revive the measure but is not making it obligatory

SNCF is encouraging members of the public to wear masks in stations and on trains in France
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SNCF has joined the French government in “strongly recommending” that members of the public begin once again to wear face masks on public transport in France.

The operator’s CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou said today (June 29) that passengers should use a mask in stations and on trains, although the measure will not be obligatory.

“We are clearly seeing an epidemic rebound [...] Wearing a mask in stations, wearing a mask in trains, I think that that is the best way to protect oneself,” he told France Inter.

“We must protect our staff, we must protect our travellers.”

This comes after Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon also asked that people observe their “civic duty” to “protect yourself and others”.

Read more: Covid France: Wear a mask on public transport, says health minister

These appeals come as Covid cases rise in France because of the BA4 and BA5 subvariants of Omicron, which are more transmissible.

Infection numbers have risen by nearly 55% over the last seven days, and 147,248 cases were recorded yesterday (June 28), according to the national health authority Santé publique France.

The positivity rate of tests taken is close to 30% and rising, and hospitalisations are up 24% in comparison to a week ago.

Masks have not been mandatory on French public transport since May, but Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne asked departmental prefectures yesterday to encourage their use in “crowded places,” “enclosed spaces” and “public transports”.

The government’s recommendations were reiterated today by its official spokesperson Olivia Grégoire, who said “we are trusting the collective responsibility of people in France.

“We have had many French people [who were] jaded and tired by [Covid-related] obligations.”

The government is also urging people aged 60 and over, as well as care home residents and immunosuppressed patients, to get their second booster vaccine dose, which has been offered to them since March.

Read more: Covid France: Plea for older people to get fourth dose as cases soar

Health authorities are concerned that family gatherings over the summer holidays will mean that many older people catch the virus from their younger relatives.

However, GP and honorary president of the Fédération des médecins de France, Jean-Paul Hamon, has said: "We must not panic [...] What we are observing in GP surgeries is moderate symptoms, even though there are many infected people. We must think about protecting vulnerable people, especially as many of them have not had a vaccine dose for more than six months."

Some have questioned whether the fourth vaccine dose campaign should be extended to the whole population, but epidemiologist Pascal Crépey has commented: "If we think about a longer time frame and a wave during the winter, bearing in mind the limited efficacy period of the vaccines it is better to wait.

"To have an impact on virus circulation, it is preferable to vaccinate the rest of the population at the beginning of a more serious wave. If we do not do that, the people who get vaccinated now will not come back [for another dose] this winter."

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