French workers will be required to wear face masks in workplaces to contain an alarming risen in Covid-19 infections, the government announced on Tuesday.
Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne said face coverings will be required in collective spaces and during meetings, though people will be able to take them off in private offices.
The new rule will apply "to all work areas that are enclosed and shared", such as "meeting rooms, corridors, changing rooms and open spaces", Borne told AFP.
France’s High Council for Public Health recommended obligatory masks in all workplaces this weekend as the country’s daily infection count jumped past 3,000 for the first time since May.
While masks are routinely worn in many Asian countries and increasingly required in public places elsewhere because of the coronavirus pandemic, government-mandated mask requirements at work are relatively rare.
Unions have pushed for more virus protections, and workers at the Louvre Museum, Amazon France and other sites walked off the job earlier this year out of concern that their employers weren’t doing enough to protect them.
However, some workers are reluctant to wear a mask all day, particularly in professions that require heavy physical activity or phone discussions where masks can make it complicated to communicate. And employers worry about how to enforce eventual mask requirements and provide enough masks.
At least a quarter of the 1,013 virus clusters that have emerged since France ended its strict virus lockdown in May were traced to workplaces, according to the national health agency. Family vacation gatherings, dance parties and other summer events have also led to outbreaks.
France reported 493 new Covid-19 infections over the past 24 hours on Monday, sharply down from a caseload of above 3,000 each on the two previous days, but hospitalisations for the respiratory disease rose for a third day in a row.
The seven-day moving average of new infections, which smoothes out reporting irregularities, stood at 2,322, above the 2,000 threshold for the fourth day in a row — a sequence unseen since April 20, when France was in the midst of one of Europe's strictest lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus.
Paris and Marseille, France's two biggest cities, have once again been declared "red zones" of infection and have expanded areas where mask-wearing is mandatory.
While France's virus infection rate is now among the highest in Europe, the government is determined not to return to a full lockdown that would further hobble the continent's second-largest economy.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
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