space traveling warriors tier list : With Hospitalizations in Alta, France Weighs Back to Masks | World News

By BARBARA SURK and JADE LE DELEY, Associated Press

NICE, France (AP) – Tourism is booming again in France – and so is COVID-19. French authorities “invited” or “recommended” people to return to wearing face masks, but failed to renew restrictions that would scare off visitors or revive anti-government protests.

From Paris passengers to tourists on the French Riviera, many people seem to welcome the government’s light touch, while some fear that necessary prevention measures may be needed.

Hospitalizations related to the virus have increased rapidly in France over the past two weeks, with nearly 1,000 COVID-19 patients hospitalized a day, according to government data. Infections are also on the rise in Europe and the United States, but France has an unusually high proportion of people in hospital, according to estimates by Our World in Data.

French government spokeswoman Olivia Gregoire said there are no plans to reintroduce national regulations that limit or set conditions for indoor meetings and other activities.

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“The French people are tired of restrictions,” she said Wednesday on the BFMTV channel. “We are confident that people will behave responsibly.”

France’s parliamentary elections last month resulted in President Emmanuel Macron losing a majority in the national legislature, while far-right and far-left parties that protested his government’s previous vaccine and mask rules won seats.

After the prime minister this week recommended that people return to wearing masks on public transport, traveler Raphaelle Vertaldi said: “We need to deal with the virus, but we cannot stop living because of it.”

Vertaldi, who was boarding a train in Boussy-Saint-Antoine, south of Paris, said he was opposed to mandatory wearing of masks but would cover his mouth and nose again if the government required it.

Hassani Mohammed, a postal worker in Paris, did not wait for the government’s decision. He masks himself before his daily commute. With his wife recovering from surgery and two children at home, he doesn’t want to risk contracting the coronavirus for a third time.

“I realized that the pandemic does not belong to the past,” Mohammed said.

Masks have been controversial in France. At the beginning of the pandemic, the French government suggested that masks were not useful. Ultimately, it introduced some of the toughest restrictions in Europe, including an indoor and outdoor mask mandate that lasted over a year, along with strict lockdowns.

A Paris court ruled on Tuesday that the French government had failed to stock enough surgical masks at the start of the pandemic to stop the spread of the virus. The Paris administrative court also ruled that the government was wrong to suggest from the start that masks did not protect people from being infected.

The government lifted most virus rules until April, and foreign tourists returned by land, sea and air to the beaches, restaurants and bars of the French Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, French hospitals are struggling with long-time staff and funding shortages. Local authorities are contemplating new measures, including mandatory use of indoor masks in some cities, but nothing that impedes economic activity.

French tourism professionals are expecting a booming summer season despite the virus, with numbers that could even surpass pre-pandemic levels as Americans benefit from the weaker euro and others rediscover travel abroad after more than two years. years of a more limited existence.

On the French Riviera, a slow economic recovery began last summer. But with attendance at meetings still limited, social distancing rules and travel restrictions in place for a year, most visitors to the area were French.

A tour guide and electric taxi driver in Nice described his joy at seeing foreign visitors again. During France’s repeated lockdowns, she has transported essential workers and taken people to hospitals, to care for elderly relatives or for PCR tests.

Now passengers on their bike from the US, Australia, Germany, Italy or out of reach of the hand sanitizer glued to the barrier between the passenger and the driver’s seat. She said she still diligently disinfects her bike before every ride, “like it’s 2020.”

A retired UK couple visited France this week on their first trip abroad since pandemic travel restrictions were lifted. They started with a cruise on the River Rhône – masks were mandatory on the ship – and ended with a few days in the Mediterranean.

“It was wonderful from start to finish,” said Ros Runcie, who was in Nice with her husband Gordon. “Everyone is so happy to see you, everyone is very polite and kind to visitors.”

Sue Baker, who was traveling with husband Phil and the Runcies, noted: “It feels like a lot before 2020.”

Asked about the possible return of French mask rules, Phil Baker said: “Masks are a little uncomfortable, especially in the heat.”

But his wife added: “If that means we can still go on vacation, we’ll put them back without hesitation.”

Le Deley reported from Boussy-Saint-Antoine, France.

Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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