Covid mask: again compulsory in transport?

COVID MASK. Although claiming not to be worried about the 8th wave of Covid-19, Brigitte Autran, the president of the Committee for monitoring and anticipating health risks, called on the French to put the mask back on transport.

[Mis à jour le 30 septembre 2022 à 17h10] It may have slipped your mind, but you may well have to wear it again… At the microphone of Franceinfo, Friday September 30, 2022, Brigitte Autran, the president of the Monitoring and Anticipation Committee health risks, took stock of the health situation related to the Covid-19. She called on the French to put the mask back on public transport: “I say that you really have to start wearing the mask again in public transport and in populated places. When you are around someone fragile, it must be protected.” In addition, she would like this civic gesture to become a reflex, on the Asian model.

Recognizing that “hospitalizations are rising”, Brigitte Autran however indicated that she was not worried about the health situation, while France is facing an 8th wave of Covid-19. “She doesn’t worry us, even if she’s there, she’s real,” she said. Despite everything, Brigitte Autran is actively monitoring the emergence of a possible new variant with the Covars, the new Scientific Council that she has recently headed.

The mask is no longer compulsory in transport, but is only recommended. In airports, the mask is no longer compulsory as well as in planes, “it nevertheless remains recommended”, indicates Paris airport on its site. The SNCF also ensures that “wearing a mask is strongly recommended in our stations and on our trains”. Transit companies in several cities still suggest wearing a mask. “Let’s keep our good habits”, asks the RATP, in a press release published on July 18, 2022. Lyon public transport also advises wearing it in the metros, buses and trams. In Marseille, the RTM, the metropolitan transport authority, published a post on Thursday July 21 on its Twitter account asking to remain vigilant in the face of the virus. “Wearing a mask is strongly recommended network-wide,” she wrote.

These indications are in line with the government’s comments. Thus, the Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, suggests wearing the mask “when you are in closed spaces, where there are a lot of people, especially in transport”. The Minister of Health, François Braun, had also recommended wearing a mask “in buses, trains and crowded places”. The government thus prefers to appeal to the citizen reflex. To the chagrin of some scientists who insist that the lifting of this ban on May 16 was a mistake. Alain Fischer, the president of the Vaccine Strategy Orientation Council, indicated on BFM-TV on July 7, 2022, that the mask should be recommended for fragile people, specifically in transport. “Wearing a mask […] is an act of civility. I highly recommend it. Personally, it wouldn’t have shocked me if it were mandatory,” he said.

With the holidays, tourists from France and around the world increase the risk of contracting the virus. If some prefer to keep the mask on as a precaution, others, on the contrary, are relieved at the end of this constraint. Do some places continue to impose the mask? One of the most visited monuments in Paris, the Eiffel Tower, no longer makes the mask compulsory indoors since March 14, 2022. Since this date, which marks the end of the health pass, many places are accessible without a mask, at the image of Mont-Saint-Michel, but also of several beaches and tourist destinations. Some, like the Disneyland Paris amusement parks or the Asterix Park, recommend wearing a mask in their enclosure. Finally, the Louvre or Orsay museums also advise wearing a mask inside and respecting barrier gestures. Ultimately, even if it is not compulsory, wearing a mask is often still recommended. If in doubt, you can slip a few into your suitcase, to have peace of mind.

There is no longer a legal framework for wearing a mask. As part of the law putting an end to emergency measures linked to Covid-19, the French can do without this respiratory protection device. On the other hand, wearing a mask remains “highly recommended”, as indicated by the Ministry of Health on Thursday July 28. This recommendation applies particularly to hospitals, stressed the ministry: “The mask remains, for the time being, very strongly recommended within health and medico-social establishments”. The largest hospital group in France, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) went further by declaring that wearing a mask would remain “compulsory” inside “its hospital buildings” for “staff, patients and visitors” in order to protect the most vulnerable.

The law on “monitoring and health security in the fight against Covid-19” was definitively adopted by Parliament on July 26. It includes a substantial reduction in most of the mechanisms for combating the virus: in fact, the text formally repeals, from 1er August, the part of the public health code relating to the state of health emergency as well as the system for managing the health crisis, marking the return to common law. The coercive measures of daily life provided for by these regimes – sanitary pass, obligation to wear a mask, confinement, curfew… – can no longer be restored. However, in the context of parliamentary debates prior to the adoption of this health law, the government reiterated its wish that the mask reflex “become the norm again” in “crowded places and public transport”.

If the return of the compulsory mask is not there, it is therefore still widely recommended by the government which encourages everyone to “continue to be vigilant”. The advice applies above all to “closed spaces”, when there are “a lot of people, especially in transport”, as the Prime Minister has explained on several occasions.. The text of the law also insists on the need to continue to apply barrier gestures to protect the most vulnerable. On the other hand, this new law clearly specifies that the wearing of a mask will not be the subject of a national measure of obligation. The Minister of Health François Braun does not rule out “making it compulsory again in the event that a” new dangerous variant “appears, as he confided to the Parisian July 17, 2022.

The government is therefore relying on the incentive lever, relying on the citizen reflex of wearing a mask. For Olivier Véran, the government spokesman, the French have “perfectly integrated” that the virus “was still circulating” and that they must therefore “protect themselves”, in particular before the “departure on vacation”, as he explained it on RTL last July 10. Same speech from the Minister of Health François Braun who appealed to “everyone’s good citizenship”. Wearing a mask is therefore “recommended” in transport, without obligation, just as in “enclosed places where we are in direct promiscuity”, according to the Minister of Health… As such, transport and shopping centers are included in the list of “enclosed places and large gatherings” where the mask is recommended for “frail people, because of their age or their pathologies” (as indicated by the government website). These recommendations are also a call for caution to avoid an epidemic outbreak during the holidays.

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Covid mask: again compulsory in transport?

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