French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Wednesday announced that people could stop wearing face masks outdoors starting from Thursday and the night-time curfew will also be lifted starting Sunday as the country's COVID-19 indicators continue to drop.
"The health situation in our country is improving faster than we expected," Castex told a press conference after a cabinet meeting. "We are going to lift the general obligation to wear a mask outdoors."
Masks will still be required in busy public spaces where barrier gestures cannot be respected, such as on public transport, in stadiums and other crowded places, the prime minister said.
The curfew, in force since October 2020, will end on Sunday, ten days earlier than previously planned, said Castex.
However, "if we are to face in the coming weeks an epidemic situation, we will not hesitate to take new measures to act quickly," he added.
France is now "below the threshold of 5,000 (new) cases per day" and "no department reports worrying (epidemic) dynamics," according to Castex.
The number of hospitalized and critically-ill patients -- key indicators to evaluate the health system's ability to cope with the health crisis -- has been falling for the sixth straight week.
As of Tuesday, 12,008 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, including 1,952 in intensive care units, down from 6,000 reported at the end of April.
"We are living a happy return to a normal life. We are on the right track. Let's stay mobilized," said Castex.
Calling vaccination "the best bulwark against the epidemic resurgence," he pledged that 40 million people would have received at least one COVID-19 dose and 35 million citizens should have completed their inoculation by the end of August.
Some 30.76 million people, or 58.6 percent of the adult population, have already received one vaccine dose. Some 14.75 million people have received two shots, representing 28.1 percent of the adult population, according to the data from the Health Ministry.