COVID: Paris court rules govt failed to stockpile face masks

PARIS (AP) — A Paris court ruled on Tuesday that the French government failed to sufficiently stock up on surgical masks at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and prevent the virus from spreading.

The ruling came as the number of registered infections with coronavirus variants rises sharply. It wasn’t immediately clear if the decision will lead to any specific sanctions for the government.

Officials across France are contemplating new measures, including an indoor mask mandate in some cities, to curb the spread of the virus but keep the economy open amid the summer tourism season.

“The government is at fault for failing to ensure a sufficient stock of masks to fight against a pandemic linked to a highly pathogenic respiratory agent,” the court’s ruling said.

The administrative court in Paris also ruled that the government was wrong by suggesting at the start of the COVID-19 crisis that masks don’t protect people from contracting the virus.

But the court said that neither of the government’s wrongs have been the source of specific cases of infection with the virus.

The French government is unlikely to introduce any new regulations until a new governing coalition is formed following France’s parliamentary election earlier this month. The results have shifted the balance of power from President Emmanuel Macron and away from the center as voters opted for parties on the far-right and far-left. A new government is expected at the start of next month.

France lifted most COVID-19 restrictions in March, including abolishing the need to wear face masks in most settings and allowing people who aren’t vaccinated back into restaurants, sports arenas and other venues. By the end of May, mask wearing was recommended on public transportation in some cities, but not mandatory.

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