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France and Spain to ease mask-wearing as Covid vaccine schemes gather pace

World
16.06.2021
144
France and Spain to ease mask-wearing as Covid vaccine schemes gather pace

France and Spain are moving to ease rules around wearing face masks outside, in a development attributed by both countries to their Covid-19 vaccination campaigns.

In France, people will no longer be required to wear masks outdoors from Thursday, though they will still be obligatory on public transport, in sports stadiums and other crowded places. A nightly curfew will end as of Sunday.

The easing of restrictions, introduced at the end of October, was welcomed by the French prime minister, Jean Castex, as “very good news”. At one point the nightly curfew was as early as 6pm until 6am.

Castex said the health situation in France had shown a “positive evolution” and the number of cases per 100,000 population had dropped to 40, the lowest since last summer. The number of patients in intensive care has also dropped below 2,000, from 6,000 in April.

“This improvement has been seen across the country,” he said. He attributed it to the success of France’s vaccination campaign, now open to 12 to 17-year-olds.

More than 13 million people – 58% of France’s adult population – has received at least one Covid vaccine dose and more than 15.6 million – 23% –two doses.

Castex said the government aimed to have about 35 million people fully vaccinated by the end of the summer, representing a little over half of the population. He returned to work on Wednesday after a week in isolation after his wife was found to have been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.

Also speaking on Wednesday, Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said people would be able to stop wearing masks outside “soon” but gave no firm date for the lifting of the restriction.

Masks have been compulsory on the streets and in public places since May 2020, although there are exemptions for children under the age of six, people exercising, and those with health conditions that make their use difficult or dangerous.

“We’ll soon be able to stop wearing masks in the street,” said Sánchez, explaining that the abandonment of masks was down to the speed at which the country’s vaccination programme was progressing.

France and Spain to ease mask-wearing as Covid vaccine schemes gather pace

“In a few weeks, 50% of the population will have received at least one dose,” he said, adding that Spain was on course to meet its target of vaccinating 70% of its 47 million inhabitants by the end of the summer.

To date, health authorities have administered 33,632,590 doses of the vaccine, and 13,007,731 people have received both doses.

In April, the government attempted to clear up confusion over whether people needed to wear masks on beaches. It repeated its assurance that masks did not need to be worn during exercise, adding they would not be obligatory for those going swimming in pools, the sea, rivers, reservoirs or lakes either – as long as social distancing could be maintained.

Author:guardian

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