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Free masks in France: Who is eligible?

Reader question: I have heard that some people have received masks for free from the French government and I was wondering who was eligible for that and how to get one?

The French government has flatly ruled out paying for masks for everyone. 

“The State and the French taxpayer are not in the business of paying for masks for everyone, all the time. This must remain a social policy.” President Emmanuel Macron said in a TV interview in July. 

However, there are several categories of people who are entitled to free masks. 

The most vulnerable economically

France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran first announced that masks would be sent to the most economically vulnerable people on July 21. He said that 40 million masks, reusable up to 30 times, would be sent to 7 million French people. 

That number was then revised a number of times, until it reached 53 million masks, reusable up to 21 times, being sent to 8.8 million people. 

The criterion used to award these masks is not the poverty line, as initially announced by the health minister, but those who currently benefit from Complémentaire Santé Solidaire (CSS), which provides health coverage for those with limited resources. A household of one person earning under €9,032 per year is eligible for CSS, for example.  

On July 29, postal service La Poste began distributing the masks. 

In parallel, a second system was set up by the government to distribute 50 million single-use masks to prefectures around the country, intended to be given to homeless people or people without a fixed address. 

The most vulnerable health-wise 

People can also be given a prescription for masks if they are frail or have serious health conditions. This means that they are able to be reimbursed for buying masks. Around 2 million people fall into this category. 

This includes people over 70 years of age, heart and respiratory patients and diabetics who fall under the Affection longue durée (ALD) scheme. They are all eligible to receive 10 free masks per week on prescription. 

People who test positive for Covid-19

People affected by Covid-19 can also obtain free masks on prescription if they can show a positive test result. They are entitled to two masks per day for the duration of their two-week quarantine, although the masks must be obtained all at once and the government is advising that someone else goes on behalf of the person with coronavirus. 

This measure also covers people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. Those who live in the same house as someone with Covid-19 or those who have had contact with a person who has tested positive with the virus in the 48 hours preceding the appearance of symptoms, are eligible. 


Since September 1, masks have been compulsory in offices and other workplaces

It is up to the individual businesses to provide their staff with free masks. 

Teaching staff

While school pupils will not be provided with a free mask by the government - you can read why here - all national education staff will. 

Certain towns or cities

In some towns and cities around France, local authorities have provided their inhabitants with free masks. This has been the case in Cannes, Troyes, Angers and Valence, for example. 

View this post on Instagram

Valence équipe ses 64 000 habitants en masques ! En lien avec un chef d'entreprise local, la Ville de Valence a commandé, dès le 6 avril, des dizaines de milliers de masques qui seront distribués à tous les Valentinois d'ici la fin du mois, en 2 étapes : 1- Du vendredi 24 au dimanche 26 avril, un masque sera glissé dans la boîte aux lettres de chaque Valentinois... 2- Puis le mercredi 29 et jeudi 30 avril, des masques supplémentaires seront distribués sur justificatifs (UNIQUEMENT) dans les quartiers pour les foyers composés de plusieurs personnes. ‍ ‍ ‍ Avec cette opération, Valence est l'une des premières villes de cette taille à équiper tous ses habitants d'une protection réutilisable. > Retrouvez les modalités de la distribution sur #RESTEZCHEZVOUS #SAUVEZDESVIES

A post shared by Valence (@villedevalence) on

Read more about masks: 

La rentrée: will the French state provide masks for my kids?

Public place mask-wearing rule challenged in French court

The environmental disaster of single-use masks in France

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