The Conseil d’État, ruling on an urgent application by a private citizen, has stated that French prefects can only impose mask-wearing outdoors under certain conditions: it must be limited to crowded areas at peak times, when physical distancing is not possible, and only if the local epidemiological situation justifies it. However, prefects can demarcate areas that are sufficiently broad for the rule to be comprehensible and applied coherently.
A private citizen applied to the urgent applications judge at the Conseil d’État to order the suspension of the decision by the French Prime Minister, instructing prefects to implement compulsory mask-wearing outdoors. The judge, ruling as a member of a panel, noted first that the possibility of implementing this requirement was provided for in the decree of 1 June 2021.
Nonetheless, they stipulated the conditions under which outdoor mask-wearing could be imposed. First, it must be justified by the local epidemiological situation. Secondly, mask-wearing must be limited to crowded areas at peak times, when physical distancing is impossible, and in places where people are likely to congregate (such as markets, public gatherings or city-centre shopping areas). The periods of time when mask-wearing is required must also be appropriate to the risks identified. Indeed, although the risk of Covid-19 infection is lower outdoors, it is clear from scientific advice that infection can occur outside when there is a high concentration of people.
However, prefects can demarcate areas in which mask-wearing is compulsory for it to be implemented coherently and comprehensibly.
The urgent applications judge noted that the French Prime Minister must take any developments in scientific knowledge into account and if necessary, adapt or even remove the obligation to wear masks if it was no longer deemed a useful measure.
In light of the above, the judge dismissed the application to suspend the Prime Minister’s decision.