French Prime Minister Jean Castex has responded to a surge in infections with a series of measures, including increased testing and mandatory masks in Paris.
The number of “red areas” where the virus is in active circulation has increased from two to 21.
If France does not act quickly, the spread could become “exponential”, he warned.
A number of European countries are seeing a further increase in cases, and Germany is also planning stricter rules.
French officials on Wednesday recorded 5,429 new infections and Mr Castex said Covid-19 was “gaining ground” across the country.
There has been “an undeniable resurgence of the epidemic,” he said, with a national rate of 39 positive cases per 100,000 population, four times the rate of a month ago.
Masks for Paris
Promising to do everything to avoid another widespread lockdown, the prime minister said wearing a mask would become mandatory in the capital.
While some streets and districts of the capital already have rules on wearing a mask, this new rule will be much more extensive, covering not only Paris but its inner ring of Seine-Saint-Denis, Hauts-de-Seine and Val- by -Marne.
From 08:00 on Friday (06:00 GMT), all pedestrians will have to cover their faces in public areas, as well as those on bicycles, motorcycles, scooters and various other mobility vehicles.
Paris is already a red zone, with the southern zone of Bouches-du-Rhône, where the second largest city in France, Marseille, made masks compulsory from Wednesday evening.
The entire inner ring is now also a red zone, as well as a large expanse of the southern coastal fringe and the Gironde around Bordeaux.
Masks will also be part of the normal life of French schoolchildren aged 11 and over. The World Health Organization has recommended the use of masks in school from the age of 12. Masks are already required in most enclosed public spaces and will be mandatory in workplaces from next month.
At the same time, the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, has promised to step up Covid tests to reach one million tests per week in September, with the aim of making them accessible to “all those who need them and all those who need them. want one ”.
What has Germany decided?
Masks are also a key part of Germany’s tighter restrictions aimed at curbing a further rise in cases. Although Germany hasn’t seen the scale of Covid-related deaths like many other Western European countries, the federal government and 16 states have reached a draft agreement on new measures:
- A minimum fine of € 50 (£ 45) will be imposed on anyone who breaks the rules on face masks – in shops, public transport or elsewhere; but a northwestern state still resists a fine
- Large events will be banned until the end of the year, although regions will be exempt if they have a low infection rate and participants are limited to those areas
- This means that spectators are unlikely to return to Bundesliga football matches.
- Free tests for vacationers returning from high-risk countries will end after September 15. These travelers must already self-isolate for 14 days.
Health Minister Jens Spahn argues that German laboratories are reaching capacity and testing should be more targeted. But Volkmar Weckesser, whose Centogene company is testing at Frankfurt Airport, told the BBC that “we are not even close to reaching capacity.”
- Germany extends additional payment system against coronaviruses
- Germany holds crowded concerts to study Covid
Meanwhile, a group called ‘Querdenken’ (Think outside the box) is challenging Berlin’s ban on a Saturday march against the Covid-19 restrictions. The event has already seen 22,000 people register. An August 1 march drew around 20,000 people, mostly Covid deniers and far-right activists.