PARIS (Reuters) – France gave local governments the power on Friday to order the wearing of face masks in outdoor public spaces as the country fights a resurgence of COVID-19, and the northern city of Lille imposed such a mandate.
The seven-day average of new infections has passed 1,000 per day for the first time since the first half of May, when France began lifting a nationwide lockdown. Officials hope local measures can prevent a second coronavirus wave without disruptive nationwide action.
Face masks have been mandatory in closed public spaces such as shops since July 20 across the country.
The decision to impose a mask mandate in outdoor public spaces “can be taken locally, depending on the situation of the epidemic in each region”, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Twitter.
The government official responsible for Lille announced that wearing masks would become compulsory from Monday in pedestrian areas and parks in the city.
Earlier this week Veran urged the country not to drop its guard, saying it faced a long battle and that observing social distancing rules was vital to avoiding a new national lockdown.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday that people should be responsible, but business activity should continue. The crisis was increasingly being adapted to a local level, he said.
“The idea is to give local officials more room for maneuvre so they take the decisions that are best suited to their situations,” Castex added.
Health authorities reported 1,377 additional confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 186,573, with 30,254 deaths.
The rise in infections follows an earlier surge in Spain, adding to concern that Europe could be headed for a second wave.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Sudip Kar-Gupta and Nicolas Delame; Editing by Alison Williams, Peter Graff and Frances Kerry)