Top French court approves mandatory Covid-19 face masks in high-risk zones

The Council of State, in Paris, is France's highest administrative court.
The Council of State, in Paris, is France's highest administrative court. © Bertrand Guay, AFP/Archives

The Council of State, France's top administrative court, on Sunday upheld as warranted the obligation to wear face masks imposed on the entirety of a municipality as long as it comprises multiple zones at high risk for the spread of the coronavirus.

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The court's urgent applications judge thereby approved mandatory face masks in the French cities of Lyon and Villeurbanne, while excluding physical activity and sport from the requirement. The judge meanwhile asked the prefecture of the Bas-Rhin department, where the city of Strasbourg is located, to limit the mask obligation to densely populated areas. The two prefectures concerned have until Tuesday to make the revisions.

An administrative court recently ordered the prefects of the Rhône, responsible for Lyon and Villeurbanne, and the Bas-Rhin to review their decisions relating to Lyon, Villeurbanne and Strasbourg and to exclude the lowest density areas and hours from the obligation to wear face masks. The case had been referred to that court by local groups.

The French government brought the case to the Conseil d'État to have those decisions annulled.

Twenty-eight 'red zones'

The government said Sunday that French authorities have placed seven more departments covering major cities such as Lille, Strasbourg and Dijon on high alert as increases in Covid-19 infections accelerate.

Of France's 101 mainland and overseas departments, 28 are now considered "red zones" where authorities will be able to impose exceptional measures to slow the number of new coronavirus cases.

The move comes as France reported a record of nearly 9,000 cases in a single day on Friday. On Saturday, the nationwide test positivity rate increased to 4.7 percent.

Paris and the southeastern Rhône department were the first to be placed on high alert by the government on August 14 after infection rates began to climb.

That prompted local officials to require face masks in all public spaces to slow the virus's spread, in the hope of averting a spike in cases that could again overwhelm hospitals as autumn approaches.

More than 30,000 people have died in France since the pandemic flared last March.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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