By Damon Mitchell • 30 April 2020 • 13:25
AS France prepares to begin to lift its strict nationwide lockdown on May 11, the country’s supermarkets prepare stocks of masks to sell to the public. At the moment, masks can now be purchased without a prescription in the country’s pharmacies, they will play a key role in France’s strategy to progressively ease its lockdown without provoking backlash in the number of Coronavirus cases.
France’s current stance on masks is in stark contrast with the government’s original advice to the public which was that wearing masks was unnecessary for anyone not belonging to exposed groups or those who were already sick. Masks were distributed to healthcare workers but for the general public, a prescription was needed in order to buy one at a pharmacy. As the scientific advice on masks changed, France’s advice shifted as well. In the months since the virus hit, the country has doubled its national production.
The government has said that, as at May 11, there will be enough masks for everyone in France. In his speech to the nation on Tuesday, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said wearing a mask would be “preferable in several circumstances” and compulsory in others. There is not yet a nationwide requirement to wear masks on the street in France, although local restrictions may vary. Wearing a mask will however be required for anyone taking public transport.
Certain groups like health workers, teachers, and some others will also have to wear masks. Shops may require their customers to wear a mask and can refuse people entry if they don’t.
Starting May 4, supermarkets will sell face masks, chains like Carrefour, Intermarché and Leclerc have said they have millions of masks in stocks ready to sell from next week.
Some local authorities will distribute masks for free to everyone. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has said wearing a mask in the street is “absolutely indispensable” and promised that “all Parisians will be given a mask for free.” The government will also distribute five million reusable masks to the country’s “most vulnerable” every day.
In general, it looks like they will have to pay for the masks and the government has said masks should be sold for a price between €2 and €5 depending on how long they can be used. Some masks are washable at 60 degrees and can be used 20-30 times. Single-use masks have been priced at 60 cents by several businesses.
The government has promised that they will have enough masks for everyone from May 11. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in his speech on Tuesday that France was producing eight million surgical masks per week and has also increased its imports, including a pending order of nearly two billion masks from China.
Supermarkets have said they have managed to acquire stocks of millions of masks to sell to the public as of next week. “We can reveal that we have secured 225 million masks, 175 million surgical, 50 million cloth masks, for our customers,” said the CEO of supermarket chain Carrefour. Leclerc said it has 170 million masks in stock and Intermarché has 70 million. Carrefour said it would make 10 million masks available for sale from May 4. It will sell boxes of 50 masks and each customer will be able to buy two boxes max.
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