France to force six-year-old schoolchildren to wear face masks

Ben Farmer
·3 min read
Pupils of the Freiherr-vom-Stein secondary school in the North Rhine-Westphalian
Pupils of the Freiherr-vom-Stein secondary school in the North Rhine-Westphalian

Schoolchildren aged six and over in France will have to wear face masks in class under new rules rolled out as part of the country's second lockdown that begins on Friday.

Jean Castex, the prime minister, announced the draconian move before the national assembly overwhelmingly backed a month of new restrictions that also include strict limits on movement. Only children over 11 have had to wear masks in school until now.

New World Health Organisation figures showed Europe accounted for close to half of the 2.8 million global infections in the past week and a third of the 40,000 deaths.

As nations continued to slam restrictions back on daily life, Spain extended a state of emergency for another six months, while its Catalonia region said it would seal its borders for 15-days after becoming one of the continent's worst hotspots.

In Germany Angela Merkel warned a rancorous parliament that the country faced a “dramatic situation” as it hit a new daily record of 16,744 Covid-19 cases.

The chancellor was heckled by MPs while warning of pandemic lies and disinformation, as she told the country to brace for a long, hard winter during Europe's raging second wave of coronavirus.

Mrs Merkel made a plea for political unity a day after she had announced Germany's bars and restaurants would close.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer later said Germany plans to deploy thousands of federal police officers across the country to enforce the toughened restrictions from Monday.

"Running checks will be crucial to ensure the success of the new measures," Seehofer said.

Sweden, meanwhile, which had refused to introduce lockdowns in the first wave, registered its third record number of cases in a matter of days. The Health Agency responded by tightening voluntary local restrictions in Stockholm and Gothenburg, urging people to avoid shops and gyms.

It came as nations around the world continued to pass their own grim new markers, more than 10 months after the virus emerged at the end of 2019.

Mexico's official death toll topped 90,000 with the announcement of another 495 fatalities, though the health ministry said earlier this week the true toll may be around 50,000 higher.

Elsewhere in Latin America, Argentina passed 30,000 deaths. The country appeared to fare well early in the pandemic and was praised for its strict measures, but is now grappling with one of the worst outbreaks on the continent.

India's confirmed coronavirus caseload surpassed 8 million. Though daily infections continued to dip, health officials warned that mask and distancing fatigue was setting in, leaving space for the virus to take off again.

Across the border in Pakistan, authorities announced a 10pm curfew on shopping centres, restaurants and markets as they admitted a second wave had taken hold. Masks were also made compulsory in public spaces in the capital, Islamabad.

Long lines formed at supermarkets and pharmacies in Sri Lanka's capital and surrounding areas after the authorities announced they will impose a three-day curfew as cases surged.

Covid-19 was also confirmed in what had been one of the few coronavirus-free countries left on earth, after authorities on the remote Marshall Islands confirmed two infections.

Two people visiting the Pacific island chain have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The unnamed 35-year-old woman and 46-year-old man were workers at a US military base on Kwajalein Atoll and arrived on the same flight from Hawaii earlier this week.

Authorities stressed the infections were “border cases” and the pair were being held in strict quarantine without having had any contact with locals. The two had tested negative before they left Hawaii and were not showing symptoms.