Cyclists and children under 11 will be exempt from a sweeping mask mandate imposed in all public spaces in Paris on Friday as the number of new COVID-19 infections per day surged to its highest level.
People exercising outside won't be required to wear a mask either.
COVID-19 cases climbed past 260,000, reaching record-breaking numbers since a strict nationwide lockdown ended May 11. More than 6,000 new infections were reported Thursday alone, up from several hundred a day in May and June.
The government is attributing the surge to families vacationing outside of the capital and then returning to Paris.
Statistics show that 21 of 101 administrative regions, or departments, are now in the “red zone” where the virus is actively circulating, government officials said Thursday.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex urged local officials to enforce mask mandates and impose restrictions on large gatherings to slow the spread of the virus, even as the government forges ahead with plans to reopen schools and workplaces in the coming weeks. It's also working on a plan to allow 176 riders to complete the iconic Tour de France in September.
“The epidemic is gaining ground, and now we must intervene,” Castex said. France “must do everything to avoid a new confinement."
He nonetheless maintained that “living with the virus” is the new normal, and Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer insisted “all children should return to school."