The Daily Telegraph

France plans to make face masks mandatory at work to tackle spike

- By David Chazan in Paris

FRANCE is planning to make face masks compulsory in shared workplaces such as open-plan offices, factories and conference rooms as it struggles to stem a spike in coronaviru­s infections.

The health authoritie­s reported another record surge in new infections over the weekend, with 3,310 on Saturday. On Sunday night another 3,015 cases were reported.

The number of coronaviru­s patients in French hospitals and intensive care remains relatively low. But the government fears the epidemic may spiral out of control as the French return to the cities from summer holidays across the country. Up to a third of clusters of new cases have been linked to private-sector workplaces.

Élisabeth Borne, the employment minister, is to discuss the proposal with employers and union leaders tomorrow. She said scientists unanimousl­y recommende­d wearing masks “when several people are in a confined space”.

They will only be compulsory in offices when more than one person is present.

The government is also considerin­g strengthen­ing other workplace precaution­s, such as using plastic dividers in open-plan offices. “Taking into account what we have observed in workplace clusters, additional precaution­s are sometimes worth taking,” Ms Borne said.

She said employers who place seasonal workers, such as hotel staff or fruit pickers, in shared accommodat­ion may be asked to do more to ensure that social distancing is maintained and masks are worn.

Face masks are already compulsory in indoor public spaces, but doctors and the government’s scientific advisers have lobbied for the rule to be extended to private companies. Many French cities have made them mandatory in crowded areas.

Despite the rise in new cases, the latest figures show only 29 new admissions to hospital and nine more intensive care patients. France now has 4,857 Covid-19 cases in hospitals, including 376 in intensive care. Many of the new cases are younger people under 45 who tend not to have symptoms.

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