According to the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, wearing a mask will not be required in places where the health pass must come into force. An announcement that comes as the number of contaminations soars in the country.
The Delta variant continues its galloping progression and detonated the Covid-19 contaminations on Tuesday, July 20, with more than 18,000 cases in 24 hours, but the wearing of a mask will no longer be compulsory for the public in places subject to the health pass , such as cinemas, museums or sports establishments.
“Where there is the” anti-Covid-19 health pass, people “will be able to remove the mask,” Health Minister Olivier Véran said on RTL, before the start of the examination of the law in Parliament. Tuesday in committee by the deputies.
According to him, the mask is no longer imposed because the health pass implies “that we are sure that all the people who return are completely vaccinated or have a very recent test which is negative”.
“The wearing of a mask can however be made compulsory by the prefect of the department when the local circumstances justify it, as well as by the operator or the organizer”, qualifies however the decree published Tuesday to formalize this measure.
This decree also lowers the tonnage to 50 people (against 1,000 previously) in places subject to the health pass. The latter will be payable in places of culture (cinemas, museums, theaters, etc.) from Wednesday.
Unlike the public who access it, employees who work in places subject to the health pass will have to keep the mask for the moment, said the Ministry of Labor.
The epidemiologist Dominique Costagliola says he learned of this measure “with amazement”.
“It’s a bad idea,” she said on France Inter. “We should have a belt and suspenders to try to fight this epidemic and not remove some measures when we put others in place.”
“If the health pass is controlled, then the level of risk (…) will be significantly reduced”, for his part put the epidemiologist Antoine Flahault into perspective with AFP.
>> To read: Extension of the health pass in France: what are our European neighbors doing?
The president of the High Council of Public Health Franck Chauvin also estimated that if the controls were strict, “the residual risk is very low and therefore the risk of contamination, or even the risk of serious cases linked to these contaminations, becomes extremely low”.
The discovery of a cluster of 81 positive cases after three techno evenings organized in mid-July in a Bordeaux club, however, cast doubt on the effectiveness of the controls.
Objective: 40 million first doses
Under the effect of the Delta variant, which is more contagious, the epidemic is returning to France, to such an extent that the executive is now talking about a fourth wave.
“We were yesterday at 18,000 contaminations over 24 hours only”, Olivier Véran alarmed.
“We have an increase in the circulation of the virus of around 150% over a week: we have never experienced this, neither with Covid (the historical strain of the virus, Editor’s note), nor with the English variant, nor with the South African, nor with the Brazilian, ”he continued.
In some places, the local authorities have even decided to re-impose the mask outside, as in the Toulouse region.
The government fears that the increase in cases, which mainly affects young people for the moment, will eventually spread to the elderly or frail unvaccinated and lead to an increase in hospitalizations.
This degradation led Emmanuel Macron to announce a turn of the screw on July 12 to accelerate vaccination: compulsory vaccine for caregivers and extension of the health pass (proving complete vaccination, a recent negative test or immunization) to cafes, restaurants or trains from early August.
The government needs to figure out how to apply this to shopping centers. He plans to limit the obligation of the pass to those over 20,000 m2, while ensuring access to basic necessities (including food), as demanded by the Council of State on Monday.
All these measures must be translated into a law which must be adopted at the end of the week.
With this plethora of controversial provisions, the oppositions on the right and especially the left have enough ammunition to subject the government to a rolling fire of criticism, even if the majority wish to postpone an additional month until September 30, the extension the health pass for minors from 12 to 18 years old.
Even before their entry into force, the announcement of these measures significantly accelerated the vaccination but also the resentment of the hard fringe of covidosceptics whose death threats targeting deputies prompted the opening of an investigation by the Paris prosecutor’s office. .
The objective of 40 million first injected doses “should be reached at the end of July”, one month ahead of the initial table, said Prime Minister Jean Castex to the Assembly.
>> To read: Covid-19: in France, the most vulnerable remain insufficiently vaccinated
Relative to its population, France ranks 6th out of 27 in the European Union (behind Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal and Spain) in terms of the first doses administered in the past week, according to a database maintained by AFP.
Despite this recent acceleration, with 56% of its population having received at least one dose to date, France is in the EU average.