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Macron models mask-wearing as act of national pride

While some world leaders have been worried about the optics of being seen while masked, Macron previously appeared at public events in surgical masks, both thin ones and heavier strength models.

A woman crosses a quiet Paris street on Tuesday. France is under an extended stay-at-home order until May 11.

A woman crosses a quiet Paris street on Tuesday. France is under an extended stay-at-home order until May 11.Credit:AP

At the primary school, a child asked “Who is it?” when the President entered their classroom. Macron briefly lifted his cloth mask to reveal his face, then pulled the covering back into place.

He later joked about needing to use hand sanitiser because he touched the mask, which he was not supposed to do.

Macron’s government has been widely criticised for having an inconsistent policy on the civilian use of face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. When the virus first reached Europe, industrial grade masks were requisitioned by the French state and aimed at health workers only.

The government later pushed for homemade cloth masks to be used as alternatives amid a shortage of commercially made medical coverings.

'Who's that?": French President Emmanuel Macron, in a mask, told the students people may have to stay near their homes during the summer holidays.

‘Who’s that?”: French President Emmanuel Macron, in a mask, told the students people may have to stay near their homes during the summer holidays.Credit:AP

Paper and cloth masks, including the model Macron and Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer debuted on Tuesday, Wednesday AEST, went on sale at French supermarkets this week in anticipation of widespread use starting May 11.

The President’s accessory, as well as his handling of it, succeeded in attracting attention on social media. A photo taken of the French leader when he had the mask pulled down below his nose prompted one observer to note that despite being “rather stylish”, the covering made a poor barrier to infection if nostrils were exposed.

During the visit Macron ruled out major foreign travel in coming weeks and warned that people may be obliged to remain within 100 kilometres of their homes.

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He said the country was facing “a rather peculiar” northern summer.

“It is too soon to say whether we can take holidays. What I can say is that we will limit major international travel, even during the summer holidays,” he said. “We will stay among Europeans and, depending on how the epidemic evolves, we might have to limit that even more. We will know in early June.”

Restrictions requiring people arriving from outside Europe to remain in isolation for two weeks would stay in place until at least July 24.

Coronavirus has killed more than 25,000 people in France. Later this week, the country is to update a colour-coded map of its regions, with red ones – those most affected by the virus – obliged to observe stricter confinement measures than green ones, where there have been fewer cases.

Macron urged everyone to respect social distancing in the coming weeks to avoid a return to lockdown and increase the hope of “smiles and sun”.

“The virus is still here. We have not beaten it, just slowed it down,” he warned. “We are entering a new phase. If we are all collectively responsible, I’m sure we’ll manage it and I want to give this glimmer of hope.”

Greece is also emerging from a strict lockdown, with the Prime Minister saying that the country could open up to tourists in early July – giving hope to millions of holidaymakers.

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Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the “best-case scenario” was that tourism could restart on July 1.

“We’re working towards that,” he told CNN. “Of course it involves airlines, because most people fly into Greece.”

The exact date would also depend on the implementation of “very specific health protocols” between countries, which may require tourists be tested for COVID-19 before they board planes bound for Greece.

AP; Telegraph, London

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