Not found, “useless”, compulsory then recommended: the saga of the mask in France

For three months, the face of the French has been unmasked. After almost two years of being required to wear it, the government lifted this restriction on March 14 in all closed places and then on May 16 in transport.

A few weeks later, faced with the rebound of the Covid-19 epidemic (almost 150,000 cases in twenty-four hours), calls to put it back are increasing. On Tuesday June 28, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne asked prefects and health authorities to encourage the wearing of masks “in places of promiscuity” and “confined spaces”notably ” public transport “.

The omnipresence of masks, available today everywhere and at low cost, would almost make us forget their rarity at the start of the health crisis. However, in March 2020, when France is confined, stocks are lacking. Pharmacies that have them are very quickly prohibited from selling them, except to people with a medical prescription. The reserves are requisitioned by the State for health professionals, on the front line of the epidemic. France will have to have thousands of surgical masks delivered by air from China.

change of speech

For individuals, the government highlights the production of alternative fabric masks (their ineffectiveness has since been proven), but above all repeats that there is no point in wearing them to protect yourself from the disease. “Masks are not necessary for everyone”, said government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye on March 20, positioning herself on the line of director general of health Jérôme Salomon and minister Olivier Véran.

Change of speech barely two months later. As the first stages of deconfinement begin, “general public” masks are distributed free of charge to the most vulnerable French people. Surgical masks are quickly available in pharmacies, then in supermarkets.

In July 2020, Emmanuel Macron announces that wearing a mask will become compulsory in all enclosed spaces, and sets a maximum price of 95 cents per unit to avoid any excesses. The epidemic is starting again despite everything, and, in August 2020, the outdoor mask takes hold. It is first of rigor in some cities, then in certain streets of Paris, to generalize to all the country then.

The mask still compulsory in health establishments

The French do their shopping, work, go to school, travel and move around masked for almost two years. In June 2021, wearing a mask is no longer compulsory outside but the rest inside.

In February 2022, it is no longer mandatory to be masked in places subject to the vaccination pass. A month later, the obligation is lifted in all closed places such as businesses, public services, or stores. It will be necessary to wait until May 16 to travel unmasked in transport. Only health and medico-social establishments still require it.


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