France Makes Masks Mandatory in Cultural Venues, Among Other Health Measures

It’s mask time again in France. The country’s health minister has unveiled a set of familiar health measures as Europe faces a fifth wave of COVID-19 cases.

Among the key measures unveiled by Olivier Veran on Nov. 25 during a televised address, face masks will once again be mandatory in every cultural venue, including movie theaters and concert halls, starting Friday (Nov. 26).

France’s Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Castex tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and several members of the government have been self-isolating.

Since the health pass became enforced on July 21, masks were no longer mandatory and were rather recommended in most theaters — although most exhibitors were still requiring it for people above 11 years old, said Marc-Olivier Sebbag, the spokesperson of France’s National Exhibitors Association.

The health pass, which requires a proof of vaccination or a recent negative PCR test, will continue being mandatory indoor in all public venues, including public transportation, schools, restaurants, shops, trains and planes. Veran also said the health pass will be updated to include a third shot of the vaccine starting on Jan. 15 while the PCR test will only be valid for 24 hours, rather than 48 hours.

Since Veran’s address, more than 1.2 million people have booked an appointment to get a third vaccine shot on the medical platform Doctolib, according to the newswire Agence France-Presse. As of Nov. 24, 87.9% of the French population has received two shots of the vaccine, but only 11% have received a third shot, according to the app TousAntiCovid. There have been 36,787 new COVID-19 cases over the last three days, according to the platform.

In recent days, Western Europe has recorded an uptick in COVID-19 cases, resulting in governmental measures to combat it. The Czech Republic has declared a state of emergency for 30 days during which attendance at cultural events is limited to 1000 vaccinated or recently recovered members. From Dec. 1, Portugal will require masks for enclosed spaces and a digital certificate proving vaccination or recent recovery is required to enter cinemas. Last week, Belgium announced new restrictions including compulsory mask-wearing, while tight measures are expected imminently in the Netherlands and Germany.

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