PARIS (Reuters) – France lifted most COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, ending the need for face masks to be worn in the majority of public places and allowing the unvaccinated back into bars, restaurants and cinemas.
The move comes less than a month before the first round of a presidential election and just as the number of new coronavirus infections trends upwards again, prompting questions among some scientists over whether the easing is premature.
“We can breathe,” said construction worker Jean-Yves Richard, “and smell things we haven’t smelled in a while.”
Bank employee Virginie de Busschere said the removal of masks in the workplace delivered a psychological boost. “I feel lighter, we can see people’s smiles again.”
Masks no longer have to be worn in schools, offices and shops though they remain mandatory in hospitals and in public transport.
Meanwhile, from Monday, people will no longer have to show proof of vaccination to get into bars, nightclubs, museums, stadiums and long-distance trains. France’s “vaccine pass” rules fuelled weeks of street protests when they were first announced.
France recorded more than 60,000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, up a third on the previous week.
Jean-Francois Delfraissy, head of France’s Scientific Council which advises the government on COVID-19 policy, urged caution and said at-risk people should continue wearing masks.
“The pandemic isn’t over yet,” Delfraissy told RTL radio.
(Reporting by Yiming Woo and Noemie Olive; Editing by Richard Lough and Raissa Kasolowsky)