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France will make masks obligatory in all indoor spaces open to the public, with effect from next week, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday.

Mr Castex told the Senate in Paris that the coronavirus situation was “heading in a rather positive direction” on the national level.

There were, however, “certain local situations that call for greater vigilance,” he said, citing the South American territory of French Guiana.

France was one of the European countries hardest hit by the virus, with more than 30,000 deaths.

A strict lockdown was in place from March 17 to May 11.

The country’s public health agency warned last week that the number of confirmed cases was rising again in mainland France, but remained at a low level.

President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this week that he wanted masks to be made obligatory indoors “within weeks.”

They are already compulsory on public transport and in most of the cultural sites that have reopened.

In bars and restaurants, staff must wear masks, as must customers if they are moving around inside – though that rule is often not followed.

READ ALSO: French schools register 70 new COVID-19 cases within week of reopening

The new decree will also apply to all shops, and Mr Castex said workplace protocols could also be revised to make them compulsory in workplaces that are not open to the public.

Mr Castex, who was appointed by Macron two weeks ago, said he expected negative economic growth of 11 per cent this year due to the virus, which would be France’s worst recession on record.

(dpa/NAN)

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