French government asks people to use surgical face masks

France envisages vaccinating 70m people by the end of August

The French government told its citizens to wear surgical masks in public instead of fabric face coverings because they offer better protection from COVID-19 transmission, news wires reported. "The recommendation that I make to the French people is to no longer use fabric masks," Health Minister Olivier Veran told TF1 on Thursday evening.

France already requires masks to be worn in public places, but until now has not made recommendations about the type of masks. French authorities are worried they could be hit by new, more contagious variants of the virus.

The French government will be able to vaccinate 70m people by the end of August "if all of the vaccines ordered are approved by European and global health authorities", Veran also said. The French government weathered criticism early on for the slow pace of its vaccination campaign roll out.

The minister said the number of people vaccinated in the country would rise to "4 million at the end of February, 9 million in March, 20 million at the end of April, 30 million at the end of May, 43 million at the end of June, 57 million at the end of July, and 70 million, that is to say the entire French population, by the end of August".

Asked to predict whether restrictions on ski resorts, a hotspot for the virus at the start of the pandemic, would be lifted next month, the minister said it was very unlikely.

France has reported over 71,000 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began. It is now at 35% of its peak infection rate, according to Reuters data, well below its neighbour, Britain, which is at 70%. French schools are still open and non-essential shops are allowed to trade.


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