Who is eligible for free masks in France?

Wearing a mask is now mandatory in all enclosed public spaces in France, raising the question of how some people will afford to follow the new rule.

22 July 2020
Medical masks will be available free of charge for some people in France
By Connexion journalist

France’s health minister Olivier Véran faced questions yesterday as to how people with low-incomes will be able to afford to buy enough masks to follow the country’s tougher new rules on wearing face coverings.

During a session of questions au gouvernement at the National Assembly, the Socialist MP for Mayenne, Guillaume Garot, asked how the French state would help people struggling to afford masks, estimating that it will cost €200 per month for a household with two children to buy enough masks.

Mr Véran replied that the most vulnerable people in France would be able to obtain masks free of charge, in accordance with the wishes of Jean-François Delfraissy, the president of the scientific council which has advised the government during the coronavirus crisis.

He cited those low-income people who currently benefit from the complémentaire santé solidaire (which has replaced the old CMU-C) and people who are eligible for AME (for certain immigrants such as refugees), as those who will be eligible for free masks. 

AME is part of France’s measures to counter exclusion. This health protection is aimed at foreign nationals in an irregular and precarious situation and who have been residing in France for more than three months and have limited income. 

“Early on [in the pandemic] the state distributed five million free masks per week via the CCAS [communal centres for social action] and the communes,” Mr Véran said during the session at the national assembly. 

“In addition, two million French people - those who are in vulnerable situations - can be reimbursed for masks through prescription,” he added. 

Mr Véran went on to say that he encouraged people to wear reusable masks as much as possible, saying that one can be bought for €1.80 and can be washed and used 30 times. He also added that it may soon be that the government send free masks to those most in need via the post. 

Certain cities have also organised their own programmes of free distribution of washable masks to residents.

Starting from Monday July 20, wearing masks is mandatory in all enclosed public spaces in France.

An enclosed public space includes shops, supermarkets, and covered markets.

On Saturday (July 18), Mr Véran tweeted: “Wearing a mask will be obligatory in enclosed spaces, as announced by [Prime Minister] Jean Castex. This includes shops, establishments open to the public, covered markets, banks…”

Read more about wearing masks in France

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

Mandatory masks: France sets €135 fine for non-compliance

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

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