French authorities announced on Saturday that children 6 and older will have to wear masks in indoor places open to the public as new cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant surge past 200,000 for the fourth consecutive day.
By lowering the age of children obligated to wear masks from 11 to 6, the government is hoping to avoid shutting down schools after the holiday break. Classes resume on Monday and young children will have to wear masks in public transport, in sports complexes and places of worship. The mask mandate extends to outdoor spaces in cities such as Paris and Lyon that have recently re-introduced mask wearing outside.
On the first day of the new year, France registered 219,126 new infections, down only slightly from the daily record of 232,200 noted on the last day of 2021.
French government is betting that fifth wave of the pandemic driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant can be tamed without returning to economically damaging lockdowns or curfews and without hospitals collapsing under growing numbers of gravely sick.
France has lost 123,000 people to Covid-19.