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France: Face masks to be distributed from May 4

The distribution of face masks to protect against Covid-19 will start across France on May 4, a government minister has confirmed.

Secretary of State for the Economy Agnès Pannier-Runacher confirmed in an interview with Les Echos that the government is on target to produce more than 25 million washable masks by the end of April.

The distribution of face masks is a crucial element to restrict the spread of Covid-19 once France commences deconfinement on May 11.

However, the finer details of where and how the public can obtain masks and whether they will be free or paid for, have yet to be finalised.

The minister said: “Several distribution methods have been identified to allow as many French people as possible to access them. 

“The possibilities are very wide and we are looking at all these including pharmacists, town halls, hypermarkets, tobacconists, the [industry standardisation association] Afnor platform, e-commerce, etc. 

“The government will contribute to providing masks for the general public as soon as possible through the most suitable distribution channels. The first distribution will be made from May 4.”

The minister confirmed that production of masks was being ramped up from 10 million to 25 million a week but dismissed the subject of whether they would be free or paid for as “not relevant”.

She added: “We have initiated the manufacturing of textile masks for the general public, which in most cases are washable and reusable.

“These masks, made in France and abroad, offer a high level of protection and meet the specifications set by Afnor and health authorities. Production reached more than 10 million masks last week and the supply, through French production and imports, will increase rapidly, to exceed 25 million washable masks per week at the end of April.”

President Macron yesterday (Thursday April 23) told the country’s mayors that the wearing of masks will be “recommended” and not compulsory, except for when using public transport.

The mayors of Nice and the commune of Sceaux, just south of Paris, have been amongst the most vocal calling for the compulsory wearing of masks, which was dismissed by the country’s highest court last week.

Read more: French mayors cannot impose wearing of masks

Read more: Public will have to wear masks in Nice

Read more: French specialist: Masks vital post-confinement

Several communities and cities across France have already taken the lead regarding distribution of masks with the likes of Paris, Nantes, Lyon, Reims, Toulouse and Cannes announcing they will distribute cloth masks to their residents. 

Valérie Pécresse president of the Île-de-France region, which has 12 million residents and includes Paris in its borders, told BFMTV that the region will equip travellers with public masks for free during the first weeks of deconfinement.

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