French Court Strikes Down Paris Mask Mandate Despite Rampaging Omicron Cases

A French tribunal on Thursday suspended an outdoor mask mandate in Paris, even as the COVID-19 Omicron variant continues to rampage across France.

The suspension was first reported by French news agency AFP.

Amid rising cases of COVID, the French Interior Ministry's Paris Prefecture had enacted the mandate at the end of December. It required all persons operating in public in France to wear a mask, even when outside.

However, Paris' Administrative Tribunal struck down the mandate, allowing people in the iconic French city to once again wear masks by choice. The decision comes just one day after a similar mandate was struck down in the Yvelines Department, near the city of Versailles.

In that decision, a local Versailles court stated that the mandate was "an excessive, disproportionate and inappropriate infringement ... of personal freedom."

Paris Mask Mandate
A French court struck down a mandate that required people across Paris to wear masks at all times when outdoors. This comes even as France sees spiking numbers of Omicron cases, as COVID-19 continues to spread through the country. Here, a couple can be seen with masks in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 2020. Phillippe Lopez/Getty

As nations throughout the European Union approach the second-year anniversary of the fight against COVID, France has seen a back-and-forth relationship with both indoor and outdoor mask mandates.

The country's most-recent nationwide mask mandate was enacted last November, as case numbers and deaths spiked ahead of the emergence of the Omicron variant. This mandate, however, extended only to indoor settings and some outdoor locales with large crowds, differing from Paris' struck-down order that required masks everywhere.

This indoor mask mandate is still in effect across France, and was expanded at the beginning of January to include children as young as 6.

However, Parisian citizens are now faced with a loosening of restrictions even as the city remains the epicenter of Omicron in France.

While the Paris metropolitan area has seen the greatest spikes, the country as a whole is battling with rising statistics. France is currently reporting over 287,000 new cases daily, according to Reuters, a record high since the beginning of the pandemic.

Nationwide deaths are also increasing, from 189 on Dec. 31 to 246 on Wednesday, in a trend that appears to be continuing.

Despite this, it should be noted that many of these infections are breakthrough cases, as France as a whole has one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe. At least 77 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the most recent statistics, with Reuters additionally stating that the nation has administered enough doses to "have vaccinated about 96.1 percent of the country's population."

Even with cases continuing to rise, some politicians across France lauded the decision of the Paris tribunal to ax the mask mandate.

"Live free, live happy!" right-wing politician and European Parliament member Florian Philippot wrote on Twitter, according to a translation. "I've never worn [a mask] and the administrative court of Paris just said that I was right."

However, French President Emmanuel Macron has taken a slightly different approach to dealing with COVID in his country.

He has previously stated that he wants to irritate and "piss off" people who refuse to get the jab, telling French newspaper Le Parisien that "the unvaccinated, I really want to hassle them. And so, we will continue to do it, until the end."

Macron also implemented plans for a "vaccine pass" that would eventually force the unvaccinated out of a vast majority of public places. The pass was approved by the French Parliament at the beginning of January.

Newsweek has reached out to the French Foreign Ministry for comment.