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France expands masks rules amid multiple clusters

July 20, 2020

Already obligatory on public transport, France now requires people to wear face masks in many indoor public places like shops, markets and banks. The same fine for noncompliance will apply in new locations.

Frankreich | Bastille Day | Nationalfeiertag 2020 | Coronavirus | Militärparade
Image: picture-alliance/abaca/E. Blondet

France on Monday made the wearing of face masks mandatory in shops, banks, covered markets and any other enclosed public spaces, adding to existing rules about covering one's face on public transport. Ministers accelerated the rule change, after localized flare-ups sparked fears of a second wave.

Those without masks in public could be fined €135 ($155), said Veran. The government also aims to have a stockpile of 60 million face masks by October, compared with just 3.5 million when the outbreak began.

While mask requirements have sparked fierce debate in other parts of the world including the United States, polls suggest that a majority of French people support the measure.

"There's no problem in wearing one, I'm completely for it," Elina Outh, a 22-year-old business student in Paris told Reuters news agency. "What's happening makes sense and I think it should have happened a long time."

Read moreLook into my eyes: Communication in the era of face masks

French authorities have reported 400 to 500 active coronavirus outbreak clusters within the country, but there are no signs of an impending "second wave," French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Monday.

Many of the current virus clusters in the country can be traced back to slaughterhouses or other contained settings such as nursing homes, he said. Others have also appeared at family reunions and gatherings during the summer holidays.

"At this point, we are very far from a second wave," Veran told Franceinfo radio. "The goal is not to worry people excessively, but to keep them on their guard."

Read moreFrench President Macron claims 'first victory' against coronavirus

The R-rate, indicating the level of viral transmission, is now 1.2, meaning that 10 infected people will infect an additional 12 on average. However, other areas are reporting rates as high as 1.55 and 2.6.

France has reported nearly 212,000 cases and over 30,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Read moreFormer French minister Patrick Devedjian dies of COVID-19

lc/msh (Reuters, AFP)