Deemed useless in France at the start of the coronavirus epidemic, wearing a mask is in the process of being essential for any outing outside one’s home. A practice which could even become compulsory as it is already in certain countries.
While since the start of the coronavirus health crisis, WHO and Western authorities have reiterated that the use of the mask should be reserved for the sick and caregivers, the official discourse has changed in recent days. In France, the National Academy of Medicine has recommended, since Friday, “the wearing of a general public mask, also called alternative or makeshift, for the necessary outings during confinement period”. Suddenly, the idea of making it compulsory made its way into France, asking many questions to which La Dépêche du Midi answers.
Where is the wearing of a mask compulsory in France?
The mayor UDI of Seal, in Hauts-de-Seine, Philippe Laurent, announced Monday that it had issued a decree obliging residents over ten years of age to cover their noses and faces before leaving. The town hall thus obliges the wearing of an artisan mask, a scarf or a scarf, “in the absence of a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask”. In case of non-compliance, violators will be fined 38 euros.
He was followed by Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, who also announced the distribution to all residents, within ten days, of a washable and reusable mask for a month. He will take in the coming days an order “which requires all those who are outside on the public domain to wear a mask,” he said on TF1.
David Lisnard, Mayor of Cannes, and Sébastien Leroy, the mayor of Mandelieu-la-Napoule, have also taken the decision to issue a decree to impose the wearing of a mask on all citizens on public roads. The mayor of Cannes even decided to launch the creation of a factory of reusable masks in “100% made in Cannes” fabric.
The mayor of Bordeaux Nicolas Florian also decided to wear masks for all the inhabitants of the agglomeration. He has already contacted ten companies likely to quickly supply 800,000 masks.
Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, also seems to want to go in this direction, as relayed by France Bleu Paris.
Will the government make it mandatory?
For the moment, the government does not seem to be making it compulsory to wear a mask in public spaces. While it has long argued that the measure in public places is not necessary, the executive has changed its position. “We encourage the general public, if they wish, to wear masks, in particular these alternative masks which are being produced,” said director general of health Jérôme Salomon on Friday.
However, in a situation of shortage of masks as France currently knows, it is unthinkable to impose the wearing of the mask on all French people. Surgical masks and FFP2 masks, the most protective against coronavirus, are primarily assigned to establishments and health professionals.
Regarding “alternative” masks, “we are at 500,000 masks produced per day today. We aim to increase to one million per day by the end of the month. At that time we will decide, by depending on medical recommendations, whether to wear them or not, “Christophe Castaner told France Info.
However, wearing a mask could become mandatory during the deconfinement period, indicates The Parisian. “The question of whether, in the long term, it will be necessary to propose, encourage, or even force the wearing of a mask in the general population, this question is open,” said Health Minister Olivier Véran on Tuesday.
Have other countries done this?
In Lombardy, the Italian region most affected by Covid-19, residents have had to cover their respiratory tract with masks, or failing that, scarves or scarves, since last Sunday.
On Monday April 6, Morocco announced in an official statement that the wearing of the mask became compulsory “for all persons authorized to move around”.
Prime Minister of Slovakia Igor Matovič has also made it compulsory for all the population to wear a mask for all outings. Just like lin the Czech Republic, which encourages home-made masks.
Slovenia, Turkey, Taiwan and even South Korea have also made protective masks mandatory. Austria has generalized it in supermarkets.
In Uzbekistan, residents leaving public space without masks face fines of up to 1.1 million Sum, or 105 euros (double the minimum wage).
Is making the mask mandatory really useful?
The epidemiologist Antoine Flahaut, interviewed by the JDD, explains that “wearing a mask contributes to reducing the probability of transmission of the virus and therefore to controlling the pandemic”. Another epidemiologist, William Dab, goes in the same direction: “the wearing of the mask for all as in Asia is essential”.
“Indeed, the wearing of the mask is necessary, but the usefulness of making it mandatory is difficult to say because we lack perspective,” said Jérôme Marty, general practitioner at Fronton and president of the UFML-S union (French Union for free medicine). Indeed, no study has evaluated the effectiveness of wearing a mask on the street.
The specialist recalls that the mask serves above all to protect others. “These are screen masks that are there to stop the postilions that potentially contain the virus.” They are all the more useful since a significant number of people are asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19 and can contaminate others.
For the doctor, the mask is therefore useful in times when social distancing is broken, that is to say the safety distance of 2 meters, such as in public transport or in confined spaces. But making it mandatory in certain contexts seems unnecessary to him. “Forcing residents to wear a mask while driving their car does not make sense.”
The obligation to wear a mask can have a real interest during the deconfinement period. “Since we are not going to be able to do serology or RT-PCR for everyone right away, so to see who is immune or carrier and who is not, it is obvious that the wearing of the mask will be all the more important, for a while “.
How to make a mask yourself?
Homemade mask tutorials are flourishing on the internet and on social networks. In a statement, the National Academy of Medicine advises two methods. The first has the advantage of not requiring any sewing talent, since it involves stapling elastic bands to a paper towel.
The second is more “professional” since it involves sewing “SMS (polypropylene sterilization sheets) fabric with a machine for a very convincing result.
For its part, the Afnor (French standardization association) has also published a guide for making a mask and here again, you have to have certain sewing qualities.