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Washable or single-use? The cost of facemasks in France

Calls for masks to be made available for free now that they are obligatory in enclosed public spaces

21 July 2020
By Connexion journalist

Households across France - especially those on lower incomes - are wondering how to budget for the additional cost of face masks, which are now obligatory in enclosed public spaces.

Read more: When and where you must wear a mask in France: Checklist

La France insoumise leader Jean-Luc Melanchon has again reiterated his claim that masks should be made free for everyone ahead of a debate in Parliament on the matter.

He has gained the support of the Party Socialist, which said in a statement in Parliament: "Access to masks and their renewal are independent of each household purchasing power, the Socialists MEPs call to arrange free masks for everyone."

Read more: Doctors in France call for face masks in indoor public areas

Melanchon, whose party presented a bill that would have made masks free for all in May, urged LREM MPs to 'vote helpfully for once'.

Cost of single-use masks

In the meantime, families face buying or making masks for the immediate foreseeable future. A family of four buying one-use surgical masks - which should be disposed of and replaced every four hours - face an additional monthly spend of up to €120, based on the price of a box of 50 masks at €25 in larger supermarkets.

The current unit price of masks in those stores is €0.51, well below the maximum allowed price set by the government of €0.95, meaning the total outlay for even larger families is lower than was once feared.

A couple buying one-use masks will have to spend up to €60 a month extra, depending on how often they visit enclosed public spaces, according to BFMTV.

Washable masks are more economical

Washable facemasks will work out less expensive in the long-run - but make sure to check the label - some masks can be washed more times than others. A typical 50-wash fabric mask costs about €8. A family of four, buying eight at a time to cover them for two months - would see their monthly outlay fall to about €40 per month, while buying enough 10-wash masks to cover the same period - at €3 each - would work out at about €72 per month.

Sew your own

For those with sewing machines, or nimble fingers, facemask kits are available to order online.

Free masks for the most vulnerable

The Ministry of Health has said that free masks will be distributed to the most vulnerable 'from next week'.

"The target audiences are those who benefit from State medical aid and complementary health care and the usual contacts of associations helping the most vulnerable," the Ministry said in a statement.

Some departments distributed free masks as France began to move out of lockdown in May. Others - including Eure and Moselle - are also expected to distribute masks in the days and weeks to come.

No mask shortage risk

Retail experts have pointed out there is no risk of a mask shortage. Current stocks are sufficient to cover the next four weeks, and France has stepped up production to cope with future demand.

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