PARIS: Face masks are no longer required in metros, trains and planes in France from Monday, as French authorities lifted one of the last remaining health measures imposed since the pandemic began in 2020.
Health minister Olivier Veran announced last week that masks would no longer be mandatory on public transport and in taxis, following the large drop in COVID cases recently.
"I feel free. Breathing properly wasn’t that easy with masks," said 26-year-old Parisian Jaceula Madimba in the metro on Monday morning.
France began easing its strict face mask rules in February after a winter surge in cases, but for weeks they were still required at the workplace or in schools until infections declined further.
Veran cautioned that the new measure did not mean the pandemic was over, and insisted that the mask remained recommended.
"I think wearing masks is still necessary just to be safe, for my friends and family," said Aurelia Imbert, an engineer on her way to Czech Republic for work from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
Masks, as well as a health pass proving COVID vaccination, are still required for entering hospitals.
The pandemic appears under control in France for now, but some experts have warned against writing it off to the history books, as a new variant may yet emerge.
And people with weak immune systems have expressed their concern.
"I will continue to wear the mask and invite everyone to do so. We protect each other mutually, let us think of the immunosuppressed," said French epidemiologist Mahmoud Zureik.
France has recorded just over 147,000 COVID deaths since the outbreak emerged.
Elsewhere in Europe, Spain still requires masks to enter hospitals, care homes and on public transport, while in Belgium masks are only necessary on buses, trams and trains.
In Italy, masks remain obligatory in hospitals and on public transport, but also in cinemas, theatres and schools.
Officials rule out stampede as a possible cause, say autopsies would determine if deaths could be linked to poisoning
Tens of thousands of rail workers in the UK staged the latest day-long walkout over pay and job security, hampering...
Norwegian police said two people were killed and several others seriously wounded in a shooting in central Oslo
Biden said the court has done what it has never done before -- expressly take away a constitutional right that is so...
Court ends right to abortion in seismic ruling that shreds half a century of constitutional protections
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes enhanced background checks for buyers under the age of 21