France to end mandatory outdoor masks and Covid curfew

France to end mandatory outdoor masks and Covid curfew

People wearing protective face masks walk in Paris
People wearing protective face masks walk in a street in Paris, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in France, May 27, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier)

PARIS: France on Wednesday (Jun 16) said it was ending the obligation to wear masks outside and would bring forward the lifting of a nighttime curfew, as COVID-19 infections fall and the country's vaccine drive picks up.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said the requirement for people to wear masks outdoors in much of the country would be lifted from Thursday, with some exceptions, while an unpopular 11pm COVID-19 curfew will be scrapped on Jun 20 - 10 days earlier than initially planned.

Mandatory mask-wearing outdoors and the curfew, which was put in place on Oct 30 and had at one point been as early as 6pm, had begun to encounter growing opposition among the French public in the hot summer weather.

The curfew, which had particularly irked football fans gathering at night to watch Euro 2020 games in bars, will be lifted a day before the street music festival held annually in France on the longest day of the year.

"The health situation of our country is improving faster than we expected," Castex told a press conference after a cabinet meeting.

READ: France opens COVID-19 jabs to children over 12 years old in herd immunity drive

Masks will still be required outdoors on public transport, in stadiums and other crowded places, he said.

The average number of new daily infections fell to 3,200 on Tuesday, France's lowest level since August 2020 and well below the upper limit of 5,000 cases President Emmanuel Macron had set as his goal late last year.

The slowdown in the spread of the virus in France has been contrasted with a new surge in cases across the Channel in England that has been blamed on the Delta variant.

READ: France to savour new lifting of COVID-19 restrictions

France, which has trailed Britain in the vaccination stakes, is racing to get as many people immunised as possible to try to ward off the spread of the variant on its territory.

Castex said the government aimed to have around 35 million people completely vaccinated by the end of the summer, representing a little over half of the population.

So far, 16.5 million people have been fully vaccinated.

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Source: AFP/gs