Wearing masks even outdoors will be mandatory in Paris starting on Friday, French authorities have announced, as the country struggles to come to grips with an Omicron surge. France is leading Europe in new infections, with a record 208,000 new cases confirmed over the previous 24 hours on Wednesday.
That figure was preceded by a previous daily record of 180,000 new cases on Tuesday.
“I wouldn’t call Omicron a wave anymore, I would call it a tidal wave,” French Health Minister Olivier Véran told lawmakers on Wednesday.
Véran said that at the current rate, two people in France test positive for Covid-19 every second, noting that the situation in hospitals was worrying.
The mandate will apply from Friday to everyone over 11 except those inside vehicles, cyclists, users of two-wheeled transport like scooters and those doing sport, Paris police headquarters said in a statement.
Paris had previously mandated mask-wearing outdoors in August 2020.
France’s Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne announced Thursday that working from home was now obligatory, with companies facing a fine of up to €1,000 per employee for companies that do not comply.
Beyond France, record numbers of new cases were registered on Tuesday and Wednesday in Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta while the average number of daily Covid-19 cases in the United States hit a record 265,000, according to John Hopkins University. The previous US record was 250,000 cases per day, set in mid-January.