Coronavirus: France to make face masks mandatory in most workplaces

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Workers inside a face masks factory in Roubaix, near Lille, as part of the visit of French Prime Minister Jean Castex on 3 August 2020 in Lille, France.Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Until now, the French government has only advised the wearing of masks at work when social distancing is not possible

France is to make face masks compulsory in most workplaces as it grapples with a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The new rule is likely to apply to all shared spaces in offices and factories where there is more than one employee present.

The measure is set to begin on 1 September. Individual offices will be exempt.

France has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases since July and masks are already widely used.

Its average number of new cases over seven days is now well above 2,000, double what it was at the start of the month.

About 220,000 people have now been infected and more than 30,000 have died.

Health officials suggest that almost a quarter of new clusters have been linked to workplaces outside medical settings, reports BBC Paris correspondent Lucy Williamson.

The spike comes as the government encourages the country back to work in order to fill a 11% hole in its budget, she adds.

France imposed one of Europe's strictest lockdowns in March, which was gradually lifted from 11 May.

Following fresh outbreaks in July, the government made face masks compulsory in enclosed public spaces. Several cities have also mandated their use in busy outdoor areas.

Until now, however, the French government has only advised the wearing of masks at work when social distancing is not possible.

Media caption,
BBC's Laura Foster explains how to wear your mask correctly and help stop coronavirus spreading

Health minister Elisabeth Borne discussed the issue with union leaders on Tuesday and the new advice is expected to be published in the coming days.

The latest measure follows updated advice on the risk of aerosol infections.

Coronavirus is spread when droplets are sprayed into the air when infected people talk, cough or sneeze. Those droplets can then fall on surfaces.

But experts say there is also emerging evidence of people catching the virus from tiny particles hanging in aerosol form in the air.

France is among several European countries tightening coronavirus restrictions, amid increasing infections - particularly among younger people.

Italy has made it compulsory to wear masks at bars and clubs in the evening.

The first fixture, in which Marseille were set to take on Saint-Etienne on Friday, has been called off after four positive coronavirus tests at Marseille.

The opening match will now be played on either 16 or 17 September.