Visitors wear protective face masks at Disneyland Paris as the theme park reopens its doors to the public in Marne-la-Vallee, near Paris, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, July 15, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)
France will make the wearing of face masks compulsory in indoor public spaces from next week, the government said Thursday, as officials noted signs of an uptick in the coronavirus outbreak.
Obligatory gear on collective transport until now, masks will also become mandatory in shops and other indoor places frequented by the public, Prime Minister Jean Castex said in the Senate.
Health Minister Olivier Veran earlier noted "weak signs of a resurgence" in the coronavirus epidemic that has claimed over 30,000 lives in France to date.
"We are witnessing in certain hospitals in Paris weak signs of an epidemic resurgence, which is why I urge the French to remain particularly vigilant, active, against the virus," he told public radio.
In the latest official data, released Wednesday, France had seen 133 new coronavirus patients hospitalised in 24 hours, and 17 new admissions to intensive care.
This was down from a high of 4,281 people hospitalised in one day in April.
Veran said an uptick in hospital admissions and telephone calls to emergency services were indicators, not yet worrying, that require "special attention" to the possibility of an epidemic upturn.
France has all but emerged from a weeks-long countrywide lockdown to contain the COVID-19 epidemic, which placed immense pressure on its hospital system.
While the stay-at-home orders helped flatten the infection curve, it caused what Castex described Thursday as "the most severe recession since the creation of the national accounts".
France's economic contraction for 2020 is predicted to be about 11 percent, he said.
While most businesses in France have reopened, some group activities remain restricted and the government has appealed to its citizens to behave responsibly to prevent a damaging second infection wave.
France, like many other countries, counselled against mask-wearing at the start of the epidemic, urging members of the public to reserve limited masks for healthcare workers.
The country has since embarked on a mass production campaign, and on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron said masks should become compulsory in public places with effect from August 1.
The announcement was widely welcomed even though some questioned the need for a two-week delay.
Castex said Thursday that an August 1 start date appeared "late" to many, and announced "the decree will enter into force next week."
Regarding mask-wearing in office buildings, the premier said employers will need to consider "an evolution of health protocols governing the activities concerned."