France will hold a second round of municipal elections on June 28 after they were called off in March because of a coronavirus lockdown, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Friday.
Philippe said the government's scientific advisory panel had estimated that sufficient safeguards could be taken to mitigate contagion risks for the nearly 5,000 cities and towns set to vote, after a clear winner did not emerge in the first round on March 15.
"After weighing the pros and cons, we believe that our democratic life must resume," he said at a press conference in Paris.
But he said the government would call off the vote again if health advisors warned that a new flare-up of COVID-19 cases made calling people to the polls too risky.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, also at the press conference, said the roughly 16 million voters in the second round, including residents of Paris, Lyon and other large cities, would have to wear masks.
The government drew heavy criticism after going ahead with the first round of voting just one day after ordering all bar, restaurants, cinemas and other non-essential businesses to close in the coronavirus fight.
The lockdown prompted many voters to stay home, with the abstention rate hitting a French record of 55 percent.
On March 16, the day after the first round vote, President Emmanuel Macron called off the second round of voting, originally set for March 22.