Some tourists confused by new COVID-19 mask rules in Paris

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PARIS – The wearing of masks in some crowded areas around Paris became compulsory on Monday as part of a drive to stem a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections, but some tourists appeared perplexed about where the new rule is meant to apply.

A detailed list of more than 100 mandatory mask-wearing zones includes the popular Montmartre district, with its narrow streets, and the banks of the River Seine but excludes other famous tourist destinations such as the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees and the huge shopping area of Les Halles.

“It’s not clear at all. We’re tourists so we don’t know in which zones we’re required to wear a mask,” said Dominico Ditoma, a French tourist visiting Montmartre with his family.

“We assume it’s for tourist spots but there are no signs so it’s quite unclear.”

A foreign tourist who gave her name as Angelica was also uncertain: “I’ve heard about it, it starts this morning, but I don’t know about the zones, I don’t know how to get informed.”

Anybody aged 11 and over faces a 135 euro ($159) fine if caught without a mask where one is required. City hall official Audrey Pulvar defended the complex mask map – which is available on the city’s website – saying that it was “evolving” and was based on criteria such as people’s ability in a given space to comply with social distancing rules.

“That’s why, in certain streets, parts are affected by the measure and parts are not,” Pulvar said on BFM TV.

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France, like some other European countries, has recently seen a spike in new COVID-19 infections, prompting fears of a second wave. It reported 2,288 new infections last Friday, a new post-lockdown high, with the seven-day moving average at 1,486, a level unseen since late April.

People have been required to wear face masks in all closed public spaces in France since July 21.

The latest uptick in COVID-19 cases has been most marked in Paris but some other cities including Toulouse, Biarritz, Marseille and Lille have already ordered people to wear masks in busy outdoor areas.

Some people welcomed the extension of the mask-wearing requirement to some busy outdoor areas in Paris.

“(It is) a good thing… so that we don’t get easily infected,” said Delphine, a Paris resident.

(Reporting by Thierry Chiarello and Yann Tessier, Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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