France mandates masks for schools and transport

France mandates masks for schools and transport

France will make face masks compulsory on public transport and in secondary schools when it starts easing its coronavirus lockdown on 11 May, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has said.

Schools will resume classes gradually, starting with kindergartens and primary schools.

Middle schools in districts with milder outbreaks may follow from 18 May, and high schools at the end of the month.

Shops and markets will also reopen from 11 May, but not bars and restaurants.

Stores will have the right to ask shoppers to wear masks, and should ensure they remain a metre (3ft) apart, the prime minister said.

Face masks will also be compulsory in school for children aged over 11.

In a relief to many, the French will be able to go outside again without a certificate confirming their intentions, and public gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed. Crèches will also reopen – but with a maximum of 10 children in each group.

France has suffered one of the highest Covid-19 death rates in Europe, along with the UK, Italy and Spain.

On Tuesday the number of people who have died with the virus rose by 367 to 23,660, the country’s health ministry said. Some 129,859 people have been infected.

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Hospital admissions and the number of patients in intensive care have been falling, however, giving cause for cautious optimism.

Addressing parliament, Mr Philippe said the lockdown had saved an estimated 62,000 lives in France in a month, but that it was time to ease measures to avoid an economic collapse.

“We will have to learn to live with the virus,” he said, until a vaccine or effective treatment is available.

He summed up France’s priorities as “protect, test, isolate”.

Parliament was scheduled to vote on the government’s proposed measures after a debate. Only 75 of almost 600 French MPs were allowed into the chamber for reasons of social distancing, with others voting by proxy.

Will the lockdown definitely be lifted? Mr Philippe stressed that France must take strict precautions to avoid a second wave of coronavirus infections.

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