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Nice is the first French city to introduce a mask requirement

ANice is the first French city to introduce a protective mask requirement. The mayor Christian Estrosi (LR) announced this and promised that all residents should receive a washable, reusable protective mask made in France. The distribution of the masks is expected to begin next week. At the end of the distribution phase, Estrosi plans to issue an ordinance that sanctions disregard for the use of protective masks in public spaces. The amount of the planned fine is not yet known. Estrosi himself had Covid-19 and wants to try new ways to reduce the risk of infection. His announcement immediately found imitators on the Côte d’Azur.

Michaela Wiegel

The Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard (LR), also relies on the issue of protective masks, which he had sewn in Cannes. The city has had to cancel the famous film festival and many restaurants and hotels are struggling for their livelihood because of the lack of tourists. The neighboring resort of Mandelieu-la-Napoule also wants to introduce a protective mask. The Côte d’Azur mayors see themselves as vanguard in centralized France.

Paris is also considering making a mask

The socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was interested in her approach. She said she was also considering making all residents of the capital obligatory to cover their mouths and noses in public spaces. It has enforced that from this Wednesday onwards, outdoor sports activities will be banned in the densely populated capital between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. With this, the mayor wants to ensure that the already strict quarantine rules are better respected. Everywhere in France it is forbidden to move more than a kilometer from your home.

All gardens and parks are closed, and forests, beaches and coastal paths are closed to the public. The mayors are pushing for the government to show ways out of total quarantine, but those responsible have so far been caught up in contradictions.

“Masks can even be counterproductive”

Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye denied for weeks that protective masks could be useful to reduce the risk of infection. “Masks can even be counterproductive because they fake protection,” she said. However, government officials have now admitted in the press that the negative attitude towards protective masks was only due to the lack of supplies.

The focus was not on health protection, but on political considerations to cover up the insufficient preparation for a pandemic. The responsibility for the bottleneck in the protective masks did not lie with the government of President Macron. Rather, it was the socialist minister of health, Marisol Touraine, who decided in 2013 not to renew state supplies of protective masks and clothing for disease protection and to instruct employers to provide adequate reserves.

But the state hospitals in particular lacked funds and probably also the will to invest in supplies. However, the government refrained from telling the truth to the French. The head of the health authority, Jerome Salomon, claimed on February 26 against knowledge that there were no shortages. The population has only gradually learned why protective masks are missing. This stirs up distrust in the political elite. The government spokeswoman even went so far as to say that it is too complicated for most people to put on a protective mask correctly.

The president himself had to make a U-turn and announce when visiting a mask factory that the government would “fight” on the world market to meet demand. The internet newspaper “Mediapart” revealed how little the bureaucrats in the French health authority are up to the challenge of asserting themselves when ordering in China.

It took the agency almost a month to revise its lengthy ordering procedures. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe set up his own task force for protective equipment, but this too was not allowed to accept offers of help from French businessmen in China. Several French-based French reported disappointed that they could have organized deliveries but received no or only evasive responses from Paris. The regional council presidents organized themselves in the face of the failure at the central government level. Several were filmed as they received mask deliveries from China at the airport or distributed them to nursing homes and hospitals.

Admiration for Germany

Many French people now look at Germany with a mixture of admiration and envy, whose federal state structures open up far more options for shaping citizen-centered politics. Because the lack of test options is also due to the rigid centralized organization. By March 7, only a dozen selected laboratories in state hospitals were authorized to perform the tests.

Since March 7th, private laboratories have also been allowed to test by government decree – but there is a lack of machines for evaluating the tests, which come mainly from the market leader Roche. While Germany has more than 100 such machines, there were only twelve in France at the start of the pandemic. In the meantime, more have been bought. But the country is still far from comprehensive tests.

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