France to end Covid curfew earlier; outdoor mask wearing no longer mandatory

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France on Wednesday said it was ending the obligation to wear masks outside and would bring forward the lifting of a nighttime curfew, as Covid infections fell and the country's vaccine drive picked up.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said the requirement for people to wear masks outdoors in much of the country would be lifted from Thursday, with some exceptions, while an unpopular 11:00 pm Covid curfew would be scrapped on 20 June, 10 days earlier than initially planned.

Mandatory mask-wearing outdoors and the curfew, which was put in place on 30 October and had at one point been as early as 6:00 pm, had begun to encounter growing opposition among the French public with the onset of hot summer weather.

The curfew, which had particularly irked football fans gathering at night to watch Euro 2020 games in bars, will be lifted just days before the street music festival held annually in France on the longest day of the year.

"The health situation of our country is improving faster than we expected," Castex told a press conference after a cabinet meeting.

Masks will still be required outdoors on public transport, in stadiums and other crowded places, he said.

The average number of new daily Covid-19 infections fell to 3,200 on Tuesday, France's lowest level since August 2020 and well below the upper limit of 5,000 cases President Emmanuel Macron had set as his goal late last year.

The slowdown in the spread of the virus in France contrasts with a new surge in cases across the Channel in England that has been blamed on the Delta variant.

France, which has trailed Britain in the vaccination stakes, is racing to get as many people immunised as possible to try ward off the spread of the variant on its territory.

Castex said the government aimed to have around 35 million people completely vaccinated by the end of the summer, representing a little over half of the population.

So far, 16.5 million people have been fully vaccinated.

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