The wearing of masks will be compulsory in workplace as of Sept. 1, announced Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne Tuesday in a video conference meeting with France’s union officials.
Donning a mask will be obligatory in all enclosed and shared spaces, including open workplaces, but not in individual, i.e., private, offices. The supplying of masks will be the obligation of the employer.
The decision was taken to stem the spread of COVID-19, cases of which have spiked over the week, reaching new highs of 3,310 on Saturday and 3,015 on Sunday. After troubling weekend numbers, the cases dropped from Monday to Tuesday to 493.
The spike over the weekend caused France’s High Council for Public Health to recommend the wearing of masks at work.
Borne is determined to keep the country from submitting to another full lockdown, even encouraging companies to promote teleworking where they can. With the continent’s second-largest economy at her feet, the task is substantial.
“We must avoid new confinement at any cost. Everyone must do their utmost to prevent the spread of the epidemic,” Borne expressed in a weekend tweet.
The minister detailed in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche that masks are recommended for “meeting rooms where there is no natural ventilation [and] circulation spaces.”
A total of 1,103 new clusters of infection have arisen since the end of lockdown on May 11. According the Health Ministry, one-quarter of those can be traced to workplaces.
The return to school is also an issue of huge concern in France as students resume classes from Sept. 1. French unions think the current health protocols are not enough to warrant the reopening.
The minister for education will hold a news conference on Aug. 26. However, teachers and parents are worried that new measures will be instituted without sufficient time to put them in place.
One concerned parent, Johan Faerber, took to Twitter: “We are at August 18, 2020, and still no news on the health protocols from Blanquer, with billions to put in the school like other European countries. All we see, as far as the eye can see, is unpreparedness, abandoned teachers and forgotten public health.”
A group of 20 professors and medical doctors wrote an editorial in La Liberation Sunday asking for the mandatory wearing of masks in all enclosed spaces, especially classrooms.
A back-to-school allowance paid annually by French Social Security will be released Tuesday to more than 3 million families in need. Given the coronavirus crisis, the amount will be €100 higher than normal.
Schools already reopened Monday in the French overseas territory of Ile-de-Reunion after a five-month absence with the mandatory wearing of masks. The island with a population of 860,000 has seen another wave of infection, with 880 people perishing from the disease.
Since the start of the outbreak in France, the total number of infections stands at 219,029. There were 19 new deaths over the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 30,429. Over 4,925 people remain in hospital with 384 in intensive care.
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