France dispatches free Covid-19 face masks to 7 million amid hardship concerns

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Face masks are mandatory in France as of Monday in closed public spaces with offenders subject to a €135 fine.

And while the fact of donning a mask to stymie the spread of coronavirus isn’t the political issue in France that it has become in some countries, the new and sudden financial burden of stocking up on the basic protective equipment has come up for debate.

As a result, 40 million masks are in the mail for seven million whom the state considers most in need.

Consumer groups, anti-poverty associations and left-wing political parties alike sounded the alarm this week over the high cost of masking up in France as closed public spaces like shops became inaccessible to anyone unequipped.

Emmanuel Macron addressed the matter on Tuesday, pledging the state would come to the aid of the poorest, but stopping short of footing the bill for everybody. “It is not up to the State — and the French taxpayer — to pay for masks… for everyone, all the time,” the French president told TF1 on Tuesday. “So I think it should remain a social-aid policy,” he added.

Health Minister Olivier Véran on Wednesday elaborated on the president’s pledge, saying a flurry of masks would be mailed out “within only a few days”. “We will send out 40 million washable masks for the general public, usable 30 times each, to furnish seven million French people who are on the poverty line… in such a way as to not have to require any formalities from them,” Véran said.

“It is evident that France will leave no one incapable of equipping themselves with masks,” he said.

The minister also noted that two million French people with health vulnerabilities would see their surgical masks “100 percent” reimbursed by public health insurance.

 

Read more via France 24/AFP

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