French communes work to provide free Covid-19 masks

Communes in France are now working to provide residents with free, handmade, washable, and reusable masks against Covid-19; with some regions including the Dordogne calling for local volunteers to help.

12 April 2020
Communes across France are seeking to coordinate a local effort to provide inhabitants with homemade, reusable masks
By Connexion journalist

In the Drôme and Ardèche (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), president of the community Porte de DrômArdèche Pierre Jouvet has ordered 50,000 masks that will be distributed for free to residents.

The €120,000 order was to Ardèche textile manufacturer Chamatex, which will produce the masks locally from start to finish. The masks are set to be delivered by “early May”, said Mr Jouvet, and will also be available at Mairies.

The move comes as confinement is likely to be extended further, but eventual de-confinement measures are expected to recommend the mass wearing of masks as people leave their homes.

Read more: France ‘must be extremely cautious’ as epidemic slows

Read more: France should be ‘careful’ as it reaches peak Covid-19

In a Live message on Facebook, Mr Jouvet said: “We will be able to start distributing masks to our residents from the beginning of May, with the help of mayors, who have been taking strong action since the start of the epidemic.

“We have chosen to support people by giving out these masks for free. This has cost us, but the health of our inhabitants does not have a price.

“We have done as much as we can to make this as fast as possible, by working only with local businesses.”

Mr Jouvet said that it will be possible for residents to make an optional donation when receiving their mask, with the money going towards coronavirus research.

He said: “This is a way for us to actively take part in the fight against the epidemic. Further aid will come shortly, to help businesses and their workers to limit the impact of this economic crisis.”

The community has also ordered further masks designed for healthcare workers, including 200 protective visors expected within a week; and 10,000 surgical masks that are set for delivery in the next few weeks.

The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region has also launched a website allowing people to join the volunteer effort to make masks. The region is working with workplace uniform brand Gedivepro, which will send volunteers the materials necessary to make the masks, and coordinate the finished products.

A portion of the masks made will be given to health professionals, and the remaining portion will be sold at cost-price. 

The site also allows companies to signal that they need extra masks for their workers, and allows them to place an order.

Other regions and communes have also begun to order masks, including the Communauté de Communes de Sarlat-Périgord Noir and the Communautés de Communes de Dordogne (‎Nouvelle-Aquitaine). 

The town of Périgueux has recently ordered 30,000 for its inhabitants; while the Dordogne as a whole has said that it is seeking sewing volunteers to make thousands of masks for its inhabitants.

The communes of Nontron, Javerlhac and Trélissac have notably joined the effort, with mayor of Nontron Pascal Bourdeau saying that the fabric required will be donated by high-end fashion company Hermès, but that the commune is still seeking volunteers to actually assemble the masks.

On its Facebook page, Trélissac posted a call for support from any volunteers that could help “quickly produce a washable and reusable mask for each commune inhabitant”.

The town will buy fabric, which will be kept at the Mairie.

Any businesses, local associations, or inhabitants able to help are invited to contact the mairie, with a view to collecting enough material at once to make 20 masks. The finished masks will then be delivered back to the Mairie.

The public is reminded that masks are not enough to stop the spread of the virus, and wearing them must be accompanied by the usual barrier methods, such as coughing into your elbow, using hand sanitiser gel and/or washing your hands, and staying within two metres of other people at all times.

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