French school kids must wear masks from age 6 under new Covid lockdown

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French schools will require all students aged six and over to wear face masks in class, Prime Minister Jean Castex has said, ahead of a new coronavirus lockdown starting at midnight on Thursday.

Until now, masks have been mandatory only for students aged 11 and older, but Jean Castex told lawmakers in parliament on Thursday that new efforts were needed "to protect all our children, teachers and parents".

Restrictions on individual movement also come back into force, with persons asked to stay at home, except for shopping for essential items, or for medical visits, or to go to work in situations where they cannot complete their professional duties at a distance.

The obligation to remain within 1 km of your home also comes back into force, with personal exercise and the walking of domestic animals permitted within that perimeter, and for a maximum of one hour per day.

A special document, giving the time of departure, and the address, must be carried by everyone in a public place. Fines of 135 euros will be imposed on those caught breaking the rules.

Bars, cafés and restaurants closed

President Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday that, unlike during France's two-month virus lockdown last spring, schools would remain open this time around, a huge relief for parents who had to balance working from home with "distance learning".

But restaurants, bars and non-essential businesses will again be closed until at least 1 December, and Castex said companies would be strongly pushed to have employees work from home "five days a week".

"We have to keep working as much as possible, but of course under strict sanitary conditions that stop the virus from spreading," the prime minister said, warning that "unemployment and poverty can also kill".

Government anticipated second wave

Jean Castex assured his fellow parliamentarians that the government had not been caught unawares by the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic.

The prime minister said that the peak in the current situation was expected in November, and will probably exceed the April wave in terms of numbers requiring emergency treatment in hospital.

Olivier Véran, the Health Minister, said he believed about one million French people to be carriers of the coronavirus, accepting that the next two or three weeks would be exceptionally difficult for the nation's hospitals.

Currently, 60 percent of beds in intensive care are occupied by Covid-19 sufferers, nearly twice as many as 15 days ago.