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Coronavirus: France makes masks mandatory in some outdoor public spaces

People wear face masks as they leave a music festival in Saint Etienne de Baigorry, southwestern France, Sunday, July 26, 2020.
People wear face masks as they leave a music festival in Saint Etienne de Baigorry, southwestern France, Sunday, July 26, 2020.   -   Copyright  Bob Edme/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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Wearing a mask in certain outdoor public spaces has been made mandatory in some French towns and cities.

Local state representatives have been given the authority to impose face coverings in outdoor public areas after hundreds of new clusters emerged over the last few weeks.

The new measures have been introduced in places many people are likely to gather like parks, markets and city centres, in areas where the virus has surged.

In Nice, the mayor has declared that everyone is required to wear a mask in many areas of the southern French city, including parts of the famous Promenade des Anglais.

Masks now have to be worn in 69 towns in Mayenne, in the north-west of France, where data has shown the virus is actively circulating.

Biarritz, Bayonne, Saint-Malo, Le Touquet and Orléans have also imposed face coverings in the centre of town and in outdoor markets.

'The virus is not on holiday'

On a visit to Lille, where masks are now mandatory in many outdoor public spaces, Prime Minister Jean Castex called on people not to let their guard down.

"The virus is not on holiday and neither are we. We have to protect ourselves against this virus without making it necessary to stop our social and economic activities and avoid another lockdown", he said.

Doctors in Lille say they are worried about COVID-19’s progression in the Northern city. The ratio of new coronavirus infections has more than doubled over the last week — 31 in 100,000 people have now contracted the virus and in the centre, the rate is 40 per 100,000 inhabitants.

On Monday morning, almost everyone in the centre of Lille was obeying the new rules but a few cyclists and joggers were spotted without masks.

Some were sceptical about the new measures. "I don't really understand the logic behind this, why do I have to wear a mask on this side of the street and not on the other?" Enzo Lorini, a Lille resident, said.

"Either it's mandatory everywhere or it's only imposed in enclosed public spaces," he added.

But others felt the new rules should have been put in place earlier.

“I am ok with this new rule, there are too many people in this city and they don’t properly respect the social distancing measures in the centre of town,” François Dufourt told reporters at the entrance to the Lille's main park. “I actually think that this was imposed too late.”

Changing mask rules

The new measures mark another change in the French government’s policy on face coverings.

At the beginning of the pandemic, no one was required to wear them outside but as scientific research revealed the virus could be transmitted through droplets or aerosols, authorities had to review the rules.

Masks were made mandatory in all enclosed public spaces and shops on July 22.

The government is under increasing pressure to make masks mandatory on a national level.

France has reported 7,000 new cases of COVID-19 over the last week and has confirmed 30,265 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.