Covid-19: can the government restore the wearing of masks as it wishes?

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Towards a new resurgence of Covid-19? After three years of epidemic, the waves pass and are not alike. Between new variants, new symptoms and new mechanisms to fight the pandemic, the coronavirus that we knew at the end of 2019 no longer has anything to do with the one that punctuates our daily lives today. And yet: the virus continues to claim hundreds of victims every day in all four corners of the world.

According to data from the National Public Health Agency, nearly 60,000 new contaminations were recorded for the day of Friday, December 2, 2022 alone. In addition, the organization has 5,602 hospitalizations including 520 critical care admissions over the week. from November 21 to 28, 2022… As well as 355 hospital deaths.

While the epidemic figures seemed to be improving, France found itself on a similar plateau at the end of October. Between Covid-19, bronchiolitis and flu, hospital services find themselves in an atypical situation a few weeks before the end of the year celebrations.

“The epidemic strikes again, kills again”, hammered for her part Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne before the National Assembly on Tuesday, November 29, 2022. The tenant of Matignon took the opportunity to appeal to the responsibility of French women and men, inviting them to wear the mask again in closed places such as public transport. A question on which the government would have seized the Covars, successor of the Scientific Council, according to information from RMC…

The Covid-19 epidemic watch committee, the Covars, was seized by the executive on the question of the wearing of a compulsory mask in certain places where physical distance cannot be respected. Public transport and several establishments open to the public could be affected.

At the end of November, already, the successor of the Scientific Council recommended the wearing of a mask for all, more particularly in transport and spaces “with a high density of people”. Arnaud Robinet, president of the Fédération hospitalière de France, defended the possibility of giving mayors the right to make wearing a mask compulsory under certain conditions.

But can the government decide to make wearing a mask compulsory for everyone overnight? What are the scenarios envisaged?

If the government relies, for the time being, on collective responsibility, the return of the wearing of compulsory masks is not excluded. And for good reason, a deterioration in the hospital situation could force the executive to take radical new measures… Although it can no longer impose health restrictions with as much ease as before.

Since the end of the state of health emergency on July 30, 2022, exceptional measures to combat Covid-19 can no longer be taken without the passing of a new law. These “exceptional measures” govern both the wearing of the mask and the confinement, the travel restrictions, the curfew or even the vaccination pass.

Thus, there are only two possibilities to decide on a new obligation: to pass a new law in Parliament or to pass through decrees. In any case, the government has assured that it will follow the recommendations of Covars if the situation requires it.