PARIS (AFP) - People in France will risk a fine of 135 euros (S$214) starting Monday (July 20) for failure to comply with a new decree to wear a mask in public places indoors, the government announced.
As officials noted signs of an uptick in virus circulation, Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday said masks will become compulsory in enclosed public spaces from next week in a bid to prevent a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Masks are already required on public transport, punishable with a fine of the same amount, in a country that has lost over 30,150 people to the epidemic.
On Saturday, the health minister said the new obligation will enter into force on Monday and will apply to shops and supermarkets, covered fresh produce markets, banks and other establishments that receive members of the public.
And on Sunday, the health department announced contraventions can be punished with a fine of up to 135 euros - almost double the price of a monthly Paris public transport pass.
For people working in communal offices, the government has said employers will have to judge the need for mask-wearing on a case-by-case basis.
France's public health service noted over the weekend that the so-called "R" number indicating the viral transmission rate has grown to over one, meaning that every infected person infects about 1.2 people in turn.
According to the latest official data, released Wednesday, France had 119 new coronavirus patients hospitalised in 24 hours, down from a high of 4,281 people hospitalised in one day in April.
One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, France has all but emerged from a weeks-long countrywide lockdown to contain the Covid-19 epidemic, which had placed immense pressure on its hospital system.
The government of France, like many other countries, counselled against mask-wearing at the start of the epidemic, urging people to reserve limited mask stocks for healthcare workers and arguing they did not really work for infection control.
But since a partial lifting of lockdown on May 11, mask-wearing is obligatory on public transport and required for entry into facilities such as the Louvre Museum, Disneyland Paris and the Eiffel Tower.
Restaurant workers have to wear them too, as do clients before they sit down to eat.
France has embarked on a mask production campaign after initially having to rely on imports from countries such as China.