France weighs mask mandate at work as virus reawakens

International

FILE – In this May 11, 2020 file photo, a man wears a protective mask as at La Defense business district outside Paris. France’s government is conferring with unions Tuesday about requiring masks in workplaces to contain growing virus infections. France’s High Council for Public Health recommended obligatory masks in all workplaces this weekend as the country’s daily infection count jumped past 3,000 for the first time since May. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

PARIS (AP) — France’s government is conferring with unions Tuesday about requiring masks in workplaces to contain growing virus infections.

France’s High Council for Public Health recommended obligatory masks in all workplaces this weekend as the country’s daily infection count jumped past 3,000 for the first time since May.

While masks are routinely worn in many Asian countries and increasingly required in public places elsewhere because of the pandemic, government-mandated mask requirements at work are relatively rare.

French Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne is laying out proposed new workplace mask requirements to unions Tuesday. Face coverings could be required in collective spaces and during meetings, but people could take them off in private offices, Borne said in an interview with newspaper Journal du Dimanche. Her ministry wouldn’t provide a list of the new proposed rules until after the meetings.

Unions have pushed for more virus protections, and workers at the Louvre Museum, Amazon France and other sites walked off the job earlier this year out of concern that their employers weren’t doing enough to protect them.

But some workers are reluctant to wear a mask all day, particularly in professions that require heavy physical activity or phone discussions where masks can make it complicated to communicate. And employers worry about how to enforce eventual mask requirements and provide enough masks.

At least a quarter of the 1,013 virus clusters that have emerged since France ended its strict virus lockdown in May were traced to workplaces, according to the national health agency. Family vacation gatherings, dance parties and other summer events have also led to outbreaks.

While France’s virus infection rate is now among the highest in Europe, the government is determined not to return to a full lockdown that would further hobble one of the world’s biggest economies.

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