Will the obligation to wear a face mask be lifted too early in public transport?

It was the last major barrier measure against Covid-19 still in force in France. The obligation to wear a face mask on public transport will be lifted on Monday. On BFMTV this Thursday, May 12, Olivier Véran defended this decision, announced the day before at the end of the last Council of Ministers.

“The situation is under control, explains the Minister of Health. We know the risks, we are collectively protected from this wave of Omicron variant that we have faced with minimal health damage. †

“We are taking braking measures when necessary, and we are gradually increasing them as the contamination decreases,” he added. He still recommends wearing a mask “for all people who feel threatened by the virus” and did not rule out the return of the latter in the event of a new wave.


However, some scientists have been contacted by: 20 minutes We strongly recommend that you continue to wear a face mask on public transport. Others, on the other hand, believe that the indicators are rather positive and that at least a temporary lift could be considered.

For Benjamin Davido, crisis medical director and infectious disease specialist at the Raymond Poincaré hospital in Garches (Hauts-de-Seine), this decision is “more political than scientific”. He points to the end of the five-year term and a “desire to wipe the slate clean from the Covid-19 counters”.

“Keep the mask at all ages”

However, he believes that “we run the risk of making public transport a place with a high risk of contamination”, especially during rush hour. “In the Paris region there is a clear promiscuity of less than 1 m, with a mixing of populations and a large number of people making traceability investigations impossible,” he continues.

According to data from Public Health France, public transport is the source of 1.1% of the Covid-19 infection. The agency explains that the risk of transmission there is very limited, “because wearing a mask is mandatory and respected”. In an interview with Franceinfo, Yvanie Caillé, founder of Renaloo, an association of patients with kidney disease, urges “all French people to keep the mask in transport” in solidarity with patients with iminodepression.

“It is still advisable to wear the mask on public transport at any age, not only for people who feel vulnerable, but also for the others around,” supports Judith Mueller, epidemiologist at the School of Advanced Studies. in Public Health (Ehesp) It would be good to maintain this habit for the coming weeks, the coming months.”

Indicators could have been set

The decision to lift the obligation to wear a mask, which comes a bit early for Benjamin Davido, should have been based on indicators. “A symbolic figure could have been established, he specifies, as less than 10,000 cases per day” (versus 40,000 daily cases at the moment) and it would have been necessary to wait until mid-June and the start of the holiday departures to arrange transport. to have. often less crowded.

While it is true that the population is better protected after vaccinations or infections, this protection diminishes over time. Both point to the risk of a resurgence with the lifting of the mask-wearing requirement and are concerned about the new BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which have been discovered in South Africa.

There is room for maneuver

On the contrary, Pascal Crepey, also epidemiologist in Ehesp, believes that “most of the wave is over” and that with the vaccination of the population, a reproduction rate of less than 1 and a season less favorable for transmissions, the lifting the obligation to wear a mask “should not change the situation in terms of incidence”. However, he explains that the possible arrival of the sub-variants in France “could potentially make it more difficult to control the epidemic”.

He also recommends wearing a mask for those who want to, but believes that given the waning phase of the epidemic, there is room for maneuver “to ease the pressure on resources to prevent infection a bit”.

“All indicators are moving in the right direction, also supports William Dab, epidemiologist and head of health education at Cnam. Reducing the restrictions therefore makes sense. But we must remain vigilant and change course without delay if the situation changes. Scientists all agree: the epidemic is not over and the definitive end of mask-wearing is still a long way off.

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