France is scaling back its mandate on facemasks in schools due to the declining case rates of COVID-19.
From October 4, students in some primary schools will not be required to wear protective face masks in areas with a low COVID-19 infection rate, according to a government decree on Thursday.
Reuters reports that although the decree is nationwide, Paris and its surrounding suburbs are not included in the 47 areas where masking in schools will no longer be required, according to France’s health ministry.
The development follows a decline in COVID-19 numbers throughout France since the government accelerated its vaccination campaign.
According to the outlet, areas, where masks will cease to be mandatory in primary schools, are required to have fewer than 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 citizens for five consecutive days.
The new decree comes a day following a statement from government spokesman Gabriel Attal, who said that the French government intends to prolong its state of emergency until summer 2022.
“What we will propose to the parliament is to maintain for several more months, until the summer, the possibility of using it,” Attal said after a cabinet when asked about the government’s state of emergency and its use of a health pass for entry into public spaces like restaurants, bars, and cinemas.
France is one of several European countries that has already implemented a vaccine passport system for its citizens. Under the program, the vaccination card, or a negative COVID-19 test are required for entry into cafes, restaurants, long-distance travel, and non-emergency treatment at hospitals.
Despite its nationwide implementation, enforcement of the program has been a challenge for French authorities as many restaurants reportedly refuse to comply with the order, the Daily Wire reported in August.
The Health pass was initially implemented for movie theatres, concert halls, stadiums, theme parks, and other large-capacity venues before expanding to smaller public spaces like restaurants. Efforts to implement the program were met with major protests in Paris and other major cities.
Historically, the French public has long been wary of vaccines, but a mixture of mandates and inducements have successfully encouraged millions to get the shot following the spread of the Delta variant. According to the Wall Street Journal, France now boasts one of the highest vaccination rates among larger Western countries as a result of the successful campaign.
The Wall Street Journal reported:
The success of the French campaign is such that the government has floated the idea of loosening in parts of the country some of the restrictions it put on this summer. Notably, that includes the requirement to show a health pass with the holder’s vaccine status or test results to eat out, go to nightclubs or attend sports events. On Sept. 22, France announced plans to end the requirements for children to wear masks in primary schools in some parts of the country.