COVID MASK. At the start of summer marked by a 7th pandemic wave, the government is putting on the map the incentive to wear a mask. Which places are affected by the recommendation?
[Mis à jour le 18 juillet 2022 à 10h25] “The French have fully integrated” that the virus “is still circulating” and that they must therefore “protect themselves”, in particular before “leaving on vacation”, affirmed Olivier Véran, the government spokesperson on RTL last July 10. Believing to see the mask blooming again on “almost all faces” in public transport, he welcomed a “full understanding” and a citizen reflex necessary in a period “where the virus circulates much more”. Two days later, it was François Braun, Minister of Health, who appealed to “everyone’s good citizenship”. As debates begin in the Assembly on the new health bill, the government wants the mask reflex to “become the norm again” in “crowded places and public transport”. This project, which will ratify the end of the main restrictions from July 31 (it will notably act “the extinction of the legal regime of the state of health emergency” and of the “health and vaccination pass in the daily life of the French” ), consists of “very targeted but necessary” measures in the face of the epidemic rebound, such as the continuation of the collection of health data on vaccination tests. The mask remains the great absence of this regulatory text. After lifting the obligation in May, the government is playing on the incentive lever.
Despite the 7th wave of Covid sweeping France, the country counting just over 117,000 new cases of coronavirus each day, according to the latest figure from Public Health France as of July 14, the return of wearing a mask in closed places and crowded spaces remains a recommendation, like the new vaccination campaign. The government is playing, at this stage, the incentive card more than that of the obligation, illustrated by the failed attempts of those who, at the local level, have tried to take the lead by reimposing the wearing of the mask. This is particularly the case in Nice where the mayor, Christian Estrosi, announced on July 5 that the mask should again be worn in public transport in the agglomeration: this measure concerned all the cities of the Nice- French Riviera. Finally, this decree of the mayor was suspended on July 8 by the administrative court of the city, the justice having considered that no “compelling reason specific to the municipality” made “essential the enactment of such a measure” which, according to his order, therefore carries a “serious and manifestly illegal attack” on the “freedom to come and go” and “on the right of everyone to respect for their personal freedom”. So, no risk of having the mask imposed again? What do the scientists say? We take stock.
It was no longer mandatory in transport, shops and businesses… But it is now highly recommended. The current health policy relies on the incentive and the “citizen reflex” more than on the pure and hard obligation. This is evidenced by the attempt by Christian Estrosi, mayor of Nice, to impose the return to the mandatory mask in transport in his agglomeration, but also in several other cities of the Nice-Côte-d’Azur metropolis (including Cagnes-sur-Mer and Saint-Laurent-du-Var). This decree, which was to come into force on Monday July 11, was retorted by the administrative court of Nice on July 8, the latter considering that the health situation did not require it. If Christian Estrosi had wanted to warn the French about what awaits them, assuring: “The government recommends it but it will be obliged to come to it”, he was quickly contradicted by the Prime Minister. On July 6, the day after her announcement, Elisabeth Borne, affirmed that there would be no return to the obligation to wear a mask, making simple recommendations. In addition, it should be noted that the mayor certainly has general police power, allowing him to “take measures to combat the health crisis”, but that he can only use it “double provided” to demonstrate “the existence of particular local circumstances” and not “to compromise the coherence and the effectiveness of the measures taken for this purpose by the competent authorities of the State”. And, in this case, the administrative judge considered that they were not met in Nice where the “tension rate in intensive care” was on July 7 “14% in the Alpes-Maritimes department against 20 % at the national level”, as detailed by Europe 1.
Like the former Minister of Health and current government spokesperson Olivier Véran who assured that it was not for the time being “not necessary to re-register obligations to return to wearing a mask” given that the French people have “perfectly integrated” this habit of wearing a mask so as not to “fall sick” (comments made on RTL on July 10), the public authorities rely instead on a logic of inciting the citizen reflex… To the great displeasure of certain scientists who insist that the lifting of this ban on May 16 was a mistake. One speech in particular was relayed: that of the emergency physician Patrick Pelloux, president of the Association of Emergency Physicians of France, who protested recent health measures at the microphone ofEuropean 1 Wednesday July 6 in the morning. From his point of view, faced with the epidemic figures which are racing, it would be wiser to put the mask back on transport and the “hydroalcoholic gel everywhere” so as not to end up with a “new variant” at the start of the school year. , which would force the government to reimpose confinement, “because we can no longer stop economic or cultural life”. Assuring that “the virus circulates so much that if you take the metro over several stations, you are almost sure to have come across someone who is contaminated”, he said he was certain that the mask would eventually “become a civilizational habit”. .
However, part of the scientific community oscillates between recommendation and obligation. One thinks in particular of the speeches of Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the Scientific Council, an organization which does not militate to reimpose protection. “It seems logical, for fragile people, in crowded places, to postpone the mask. Yes, I recommend it”, he had simply declared the doctor on RTL, on June 30, refusing to speak of obligation. In the same way, the president of the Vaccine Strategy Orientation Council Alain Fischer spoke of the mask as an “act of good citizenship” in public transport, in certain places of work or socialization “(comments made at the microphone of France Inter on June 30).
The recommendations of scientists and authorities, put in place since the spring, could turn into a generalized obligation on the territory. In any case, some are worried about the accelerated procedure initiated by the government on a Covid bill called “health monitoring and security” and presented by the government to the Assembly on July 4. This text, which is currently under review, aims to avoid any resurgence of the epidemic, as reported by TFI Info. If this law does not contain an extension of the exceptional measure of state of health emergency voted in November 2021, the Government not considering it “not necessary” to “extend the regime of the state of health emergency, created in the spring 2020, and the post-health crisis regime established thereafter”, the text of the bill provides for the maintenance of a health security system. This includes tools for monitoring the epidemic, as well as monitoring and supporting people positive for Covid-19. In addition, this law will authorize the establishment of a health control at the borders when the situation requires it, with proof of vaccination potentially required to enter the national territory. If the return of the compulsory mask is not there (still according to TF1), the rising hospitalization rate (in particular the figure of new admissions to critical care services) could force the authorities to plead for its application.
For the moment, health establishments, hospitals and nursing homes are the only places that remain subject to the obligation to wear a mask. Thus, the obligation to wear a mask now only concerns caregivers, patients and visitors to health and care facilities such as hospitals, pharmacies or medical biology laboratories.
Wearing a mask is therefore “recommended” in transport, without obligation, just as in “enclosed places where we are in direct promiscuity”, according to the Minister of Health…. As such, transport and centers commercial ones appear in the list of “enclosed places and large gatherings” where the mask is recommended for “frail people, because of their age or their pathologies” (as indicated by the government site). With the exception therefore of the Nice-Côte-d’Azur metropolis, where the inhabitants will return to the mask in transport next Monday. The government recalls for its part that “the mask remains an effective tool to prevent the transmission of Covid-19”, in the same way as “other barrier gestures such as regular ventilation of closed places or frequent hand washing”. “It is necessary to keep these good reflexes to best protect the most fragile”, concludes the press release. These recommendations are also a call for caution in this context of an epidemic outbreak just before the summer period.