Paris imposes new curbs in light of Omicron surge

Wearing masks outdoors is now mandatory due to the variant’s record spread across France

With France leading Europe in the number of cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, the authorities have ordered Parisians to wear masks even when outdoors from Friday.

The decision to return to the wearing of masks in public places, which had last been mandated in the French capital in August 2020, was made after the country reported a record 208,000 new infections on Wednesday.

Health Minister Olivier Véran said two people in France were testing positive for Covid-19 every second, putting hospitals under serious pressure. “I wouldn’t call Omicron a wave anymore. I would call it a tidal wave,” he stated starkly.

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People queue for tests ahead of Christmas, amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Paris, France, December 23, 2021 © Reuters / Christian Hartmann
France is breaking European Covid records

From December 31, all those aged 11 and over will have to wear masks when in public. The only exception is for cyclists and those inside vehicles, and for those engaged in sport.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that, from early January, working from home for at least three days a week would become mandatory for all those whose roles allowed them to do so. Firms that violated the rules will be punished with fines of up to €50,000 ($56,600), the government warned.

In addition, outside gatherings will be limited to 5,000 mask-wearing people, although it’s not yet clear if that restriction will apply to campaign events ahead of April’s presidential election.

Amid rising cases, France said that citizens were now eligible to get a booster shot of a coronavirus vaccine just three months after receiving their last inoculation.

More than 9.3 million have been infected with Covid-19 in the country since the start of the pandemic, with over 121,000 succumbing to the disease.

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