Following a meeting with the social partners on Tuesday, the Ministry of Labor announced that the wearing of masks will be “systematized” at the end of August in “all closed and shared spaces” in companies. The government thus joins the latest talks made by several specialists in infectious diseases and also recommends telework to combat the coronavirus epidemic.
The beginning of the school year will be masked in most French companies. While the number of hospital admissions and patients in intensive care due to cases of Covid-19 continues to climb in France, the wearing of masks will be “systematized” at the end of August in “all closed and shared spaces” by companies, Minister of Labor Elisabeth Borne said on Tuesday 18 August following a meeting with the social partners. The government is trying to combat outbreaks of pollution, of which 24% are in companies, according to Public Health France.
“It is necessary to systematize, as recommended by the High Council of Public Health (HCSP), the wearing of the mask in all workplaces that are closed and shared,” such as “meeting rooms, corridors, changing rooms, open spaces,” she told AFP.
According to Force Ouvrière (FO) Secretary General Yves Veyrier, the government will “introduce” a “mandatory” port and this “from September 1”, he said on Tuesday on BFMTV, at the end of the same meeting.
Élisabeth Borneav had already announced the color of the meeting with the social partners from Sunday 16 August in JDD: she imagined “mandatory wearing of the mask” in certain situations, such as meeting rooms and business traffic areas.
“The issue of taking responsibility”
“If the wearing of a mask must be more systematic, under what conditions and how should the mask be worn? (…) Can we reuse the same mask? There are many questions that the public authorities must answer”, warned Yves Veyrier, Secretary General of FO at Cnews, just before the meeting.
“Of course, the question of support will arise,” he added.
Véronique Martin from CGT also points to issues “regarding the organization of work, working hours and workplaces”.
The ministry had asked the High Council of Public Health to work with “open space”. The latest version of the company closure protocol, a practical guide to dealing with the health crisis, officially dates back to early August, but in reality the latest major update is from late June.
Since then, many French people have taken advantage of the summer to go on holiday and the coronavirus has continued to circulate.
Medical personnel ask to wear masks in all closed places
The statistical indicators of contamination, which began to rise again, worry the health authorities and the government. They are afraid of a second wave that will probably rock the hospital system and the economy again.
To deal with this, the authorities have introduced masking in several cities or lively districts, such as Paris and Marseille. Several doctors are fighting for it to become mandatory in all cramped spaces, including companies.
Workplace protocols “do not take sufficient account” of the risk of Covid-19 spreading with aerosols (fine droplets suspended in the air exhaled by patients), lament twenty doctors in a column published in a row for Release.
On Tuesday, the collective of medical staff C19 arrested the Prime Minister to make the mask mandatory in all closed places, the home was the only exception to the rule.
Almost a quarter of contamination outbreaks in companies
According to the latest figures from Public Health France, 24% of “clusters”, sources of pollution, are in companies (excluding medical facilities). “According to the figures we were presented with, half of the business clusters are slaughterhouses or farms,” explained Michel Beaugas, FO.
For more traditional office activities, Élisabeth Borne sees “no reason” to question the current rule of applying one square meter per workstation, a rule established at the end of June or to impose the mask “in individual offices”.
The current protocol applies the mask only when a distance of one meter is not respected.
Debate over telework, which “remains recommended”
The executive is on a “crest line that is not easy to maintain,” François Asselin, president of the Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises, told AFP. “You need to have an awareness message” and “at the same time avoid sending overly anxious messages that would inhibit the activity that everyone needs”.
On Tuesday’s menu will also be the issue of telework, which “remains recommended” especially in “areas with active circulation of the virus”, has already warned the minister.
For their part, the unions are waiting for a negotiation to begin on this issue with the employers, but the latter opposes it.