It’s not just a US debate...Britain has made masks mandatory in shops and France is weighing whether to require people to wear them in public places
Amid pervasive backsliding on social distancing, Britain has made masks mandatory in shops and France is weighing whether to require people to wear them in public places.
Scientists say the two countries’ governments should have done so ever since they started easing lockdowns — like many other European nations did – instead of exposing their populations to the risk of infections from mass dance parties and summer vacationers who think there’s no longer anything to worry about.
Whether to make masks mandatory isn’t just a matter of debate in the United States, where infection rates are still climbing fast.
After weeks of prevarication and days of confused messaging, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government said Monday that masks will be required in stores starting July 24. Johnson’s office said “growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus.” Those who flout the law can be fined up to 100 pounds by the police.
Critics had accused Johnson’s government of failing to provide clarity on mask-wearing in the days since he began backtracking on its previous advice that suggested face covers were not necessary. After the prime minister then was photographed wearing one in a shop, government ministers appeared on TV urging personal choice in the mask issue.
Meanwhile, France’s government said Monday it’s considering requiring masks in all indoor public places amid signs of a small rise in confirmed virus cases – and a big drop in public vigilance. French scientists have pushed for such a requirement in recent days as families crisscross the country for summer vacations, but the government has remained cautious. Local mayors have already started requiring masks, notably in the Mediterranean city of Nice, where images of thousands of people dancing at an outdoor DJ performance this weekend provoked nationwide concern.
Elsewhere in Europe, where the virus curve largely flattened out months ago, most governments made masks mandatory as soon as they started reopening their economies, requiring their use in shops and other indoor public spaces and on public transportation. Some nations have imposed mask requirements as new outbreaks emerged in recent days or weeks.
Britain and France, which have reported some of the world’s highest numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths, had taken a more relaxed attitude, recommending masks but not requiring them.
“As the virus comes down in incidence and we have more and more success, I think face coverings are a kind of extra insurance we can all use to stop it coming back and stop it getting out of control again,” Johnson said. “To be absolutely clear, I do think that face coverings do have a real value in confined spaces and I do think the public understands that.”