Face masks will no longer be required on trains, planes and metros in France starting on May 16, the health minister said Wednesday. Mask-wearing requirements are also set to be lifted in airports and on flights in Europe the same day, the EU Aviation Safety Agency said.
“From Monday, May 16, masks will no longer be mandatory for all public transport,” Health Minister Olivier Véran said after a weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
“Wearing a mask remains recommended,” he added, but the rule is “no longer appropriate” given the large drop in Covid cases recently.
France began easing its strict face mask rules in February after a winter surge in cases, but for weeks they were still required at the workplace or in schools until infections declined further. Masks as well as a health pass proving vaccination status are still required for entering hospitals, and people who test positive must still self-isolate for at least seven days.
On Tuesday, 56,449 new cases were reported over the previous 24 hours, mainly the Omicron variant, despite a concerted vaccination campaign that has seen 79.3 percent of the population receive all three required doses, according to health ministry data.
In March authorities began offering a fourth vaccine dose to people age 80 and over, and Véran said a new booster campaign for the general population could be necessary in the autumn depending on which new variants emerge. France has recorded just under 147,000 Covid deaths since the outbreak emerged.
France’s move comes amid an easing of travel and sanitary restrictions throughout Europe. Face mask requirements are set to be lifted in airports and on flights in Europe, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Wednesday.
Those new recommendations will also come into effect on Monday.
“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said in a statement.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)