How long will free face masks be available in France?

People living in France who suffer from chronic long-term illnesses that put them “at very high risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19” currently have the right to free face masks. But for how much longer?

23 July 2020
A pile of blue surgical masks. How long will free face masks be available for those at high risk from Covid-19 in France?France’s social security provider, the Direction de la Sécurité Sociale, have confirmed that free masks will be available until “at least” August 31, 2020
By Joanna York

The legal right to free face masks, for those eligible, has been in place since deconfinement began in France on May 11. It states that those with a medical prescription can claim up to 10 free face masks per week from pharmacies.  

The list of those eligible for free masks includes people aged 65 and over, pregnant women in their third trimester, and people with long-term chronic illnesses. 

Such illnesses may include people with diabetes, obesity, heart problems, respiratory problems, cancer, sickle cell syndrome, or stage B cirrhosis of the liver, as well as patients undergoing dialysis and those with immunodeficiency. 

Read more: Who is eligible for free masks in France?

How long will free masks be available? 

Legally, the right to free masks for those eligible should have stopped when France came out of its state of health emergency on July 10.

However when France’s state of health emergency ended a new law was introduced protecting the rights of those “at risk” to free masks.

Unless it is challenged this law should remain in place until October 30, 2020, meaning free masks will be available in pharmacies, on prescription, until this date for those eligible.

Currently France’s social security provider la Direction de la Sécurité Sociale has only confirmed that free masks will be available until “at least” August 31, 2020.

At this point, it has said, the law will be “re-examined according to how the situation has evolved”.


Plans for law change emerging

Pierre Béguerie, president of national pharmacy body l’Ordre National des Pharmaciens, has confirmed that plans to change the law on free face masks are underway.

He told news source Liberation: “A discussion with the health minister is ongoing to plan a pathway towards the end of [free] mask distribution.” 

While no official decision has been taken, Mr Béguerie said this could mean that rather than being given for free in pharmacies, masks would be instead be “reimbursed [by the State] when they are prescribed by a doctor”.

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