France will soon be producing some 17 million, washable, reusable fabric masks for the general public per week, and tens of millions more have been ordered from abroad. But for now a shortage remains, the Emmanuel Macron government’s spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said. “We cannot deny the shortage,” Ms Ndiaye told the news channel BFM TV, as she admitted the government had faced “logistical difficulties” as the demand for masks soared in response to rising coronavirus contagion fears.
“At the international level, however, there is still no clear consensus on the value of wearing a mask in public,” she continued.
Her comments came shortly after France’s Academy of Medicine urged the French to “immediately” start wearing a homemade face mask when they venture outdoors to help reduce the spread of the virus.
President Macron has come under fire over the lack of face masks and other protective gear. Critics say that his government’s early insistence that the masks were not useful was in fact prompted by a shortage of them.
France is due to start exiting its strict lockdown from May 11. Schools and some shops will gradually reopen, but the government has yet to spell out when businesses like cafés and cinemas can restart and to what extent people will be allowed to move around.
In a rare mea culpa, Mr Macron acknowledged last week that the country had not been prepared for the health crisis that has killed more than 20,000 people in the country.
“We lacked gowns, gloves, hand gel, and we were not able to hand out as many masks as we would have liked,” he said in a televised address.
He added that, by mid-May, France would be able to test anyone presenting coronavirus symptoms and give non-surgical face masks to the public.
The country will shortly be producing some 17 million washable, reusable fabric masks per week, and tens of millions more have been ordered from abroad.
The number of people who have died from coronavirus infection in France increased by 544 to 21,340 on Wednesday, the fourth-highest tally in the world after the United States, Italy and Spain.
The number of people in hospital with the flu-like virus fell by 365 to 29,741, the eighth consecutive fall, health chief Jerome Salomon told a daily press conference.
The number of patients in intensive care units – the most important metric of a health system’s ability to deal with the epidemic – fell by 215 to 5,218, the 14th consecutive decline. There are now nearly 2,000 people less in ICUSs from the high of 7,148 on April 8.
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