French students
French students aged six and up must now wears masks in class. Source: Theo Rouby/AFP

French schools will require all French students aged six and over to wear face masks in class, Prime Minister Jean Castex said Thursday ahead of a new COVID-19 lockdown starting at midnight.

Until now masks were mandatory only for students 11 and older, but Castex told lawmakers in parliament that new efforts were needed “to protect all our children, teachers and parents.”

President Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday that unlike during France’s two-month virus lockdown last spring, schools would remain open this time around, a huge relief for parents who had to balance working from home with “distance learning.”

But restaurants, bars and non-essential businesses will again be closed until at least Dec. 1, 2020, and Castex said companies would be strongly pushed to have employees work from home “five days a week.”

“We have to keep working as much as possible, but of course under strict sanitary conditions that stop the virus from spreading,” he said, warning that “unemployment and poverty can also kill.”