France condemned over its lack of masks during Covid pandemic

Paris court rules that professionals put at risk can claim compensation

The court ruled that the plaintiffs could be awarded ‘partial compensation’
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The French government mishandled its stocks of face masks during the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis and endangered professionals through misleading information, a Paris court has ruled.

Those who were put at risk may claim compensation.

The Tribunal Administratif de Paris, which rules on administrative and common law cases, reached the verdict on Friday, October 6.

Thirty plaintiffs had brought a civil suit against the state’s handling of the pandemic, relating to the distribution of face masks and government information about the virus in particular.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic France, like many other countries, lacked sufficient stocks of face masks and chose to prioritise their distribution in hospitals to the detriment of other people who were at risk, such as GPs and supermarket workers.

In its ruling, the court found that the state committed errors in:

  • “Not maintaining a supply of face masks that would be sufficient to prevent the spread of a pandemic linked to a highly pathogenic respiratory agent.”
  • “Government communication concerning the utility of wearing face masks at the beginning of the epidemic.”

‘Partial Compensation’

The ruling will open the door for the plaintiffs, and potentially other victims of the pandemic, to claim compensation from the state.

A previous case brought by the same plaintiffs in June 2022 had ruled that they could not claim compensation due to it being impossible to ascertain precisely how they had contracted the virus.

However, on October 6, the court ruled that partial compensation could be awarded to the plaintiffs as they had contracted the virus due to being “particularly exposed to the virus in large part to their professions, and unable to maintain a physical distance from people who were potentially contagious.”

Among the plaintiffs were the family of a GP who contracted the virus while working in his cabinet - a fact mentioned on his death certificate - having been unable to acquire a face mask. He died in April 2020.

In the court’s ruling it stated that the GP had been “prevented from having a chance at escaping contamination.”

However, the court did not uphold other accusations against the French state’s handling of the pandemic relating to the date of the first lockdown or Covid-19 testing.

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