Masks no longer obligatory in French public transport as Covid epidemic weakens

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
France AP - Michel Euler
MAY 16, 2022 LISTEN
AP - Michel Euler

As the number of Covid-related hospitalisations and infection rates continue to decline, the French authorities have dropped the obligation for passengers in public transport to wear masks. From Monday, users of metros, buses, trains, planes and taxis will no longer be told to cover up.

As of Monday, 16 May, the final visible evidence of the Covid epidemic has been swept from French public space.

In a clear sign that the epidemic which has caused thousands of deaths and untold social and economic hardship is losing its significance as both a political and a health issue, users of French public transport are now free to choose to wear protective masks.

However, several medical experts have warned against a too rapid assumption that the danger posed by the coronavirus is a thing of the past.

The epidemic is under control, but is certainly not over, with the risk of the emergence of more dangerous variants of the viruss which causes Covid.

The French Public Health Agency has confirmed a clear decline in the number and rate of infections, but has also warned that the so-called "virological indicators", basically, the mass of potentially dangerous viruses in circulatiojn, remain high.

The Health Ministry continues to recommend the wearing of masks in crowded public places and has warned that the obligation to wear protection will be reintroduced if the public health situation deteriorates.

The obligation to present a valid certificate of vaccination, or a recent negative test; remains in place for all those entering hospital and care home for the aged.

Commission cancels French vaccine deal

In a separate but related development, the European Commission says it intends to terminate an agreement to buy the Covid vaccine of French-Austria drug maker Valneva as the shot has yet to receive marketing authorisation, the company said Monday.

The European Union's executive arm signed a deal to buy up to 60 million doses of the VLA2001 vaccine.

But the contract has a clause allowing Brussels to scrap the agreement if the vaccine does not receive the green light from the European Medicines Agency by April 30.

The company has 30 days from May 13 to obtain the marketing authorisation or propose "an acceptable remediation plan", Valneva said in a statement.

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