"At the beginning of March and even more in February or January, nobody was talking about the masks," Emmanuel Macron told BFMTV. This is false: unions of doctors and medical personnel have publicly worried about the quantities available and their supply.
Here is the full sentence: "Let’s collectively honestly say that at the beginning of March and even more in February or January, nobody was talking about masks, because we never thought we would have to restrict the distribution of these for caregivers. "
"It is not true, from the start (of the epidemic), there was this request," Patrick Pelloux, president of the association of emergency doctors in France, told AFP on Tuesday.
"The liberal doctors are on the front line to take care of patients suspected or affected by the coronavirus (...) they did not benefit from any protective equipment during the examination of the patients (adapted masks, protective tunics) ", alerted on February 26 the union" Young Doctors ".
"The imminence of a coronavirus epidemic requires the mobilization of all professionals (...) generalists need the equipment necessary for their own protection (FFP2 masks, hydroalcoholic solutions, glasses, etc.)", claimed on March 2 the MG France generalist union.
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"We continue to demand that FFP2 masks be sent to our offices as a matter of urgency, before finding themselves overwhelmed by the epidemic," asked the Confédération des Syndicats Médicales Français (liberal doctors) on its website on February 28.
On March 18, a Health Insurance document specifies that GPs will receive 18 FFP2 masks (which offer a higher level of protection) per week.
Other examples: on March 3, Florence Arnaiz-Maumé, general delegate of Synerpa (bringing together the main private players in nursing homes) explains to AFP that "professionals in the sector remain worried about a possible shortage of protective masks". Three days later, the National Union of Nursing Professionals published an internal survey stating that "78% of nurses in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes, are faced with a lack of FFP2 masks".
Contacted by AFP on Tuesday, the Élysée Palace explains that Emmanuel Macron mentioned the "general public masks" (in fabric) "for which the government mobilized French textile manufacturers in March".
"Never out of stock"
Another sentence from the president sparked strong criticism, especially from the opposition. "There was a restrictive doctrine (...). Then there was a reinforced supply and a reinforced production and we were never out of stock. What is true is that there was shortcomings, that there have been tensions, that is what we will have to look at to correct it and to prevent, "he said.
If it is true that France has never found itself without any mask, between its production and its imports, the state stock at the beginning of the epidemic included only "117 million surgical masks for adults" and " no strategic stock "in FFP2, detailed on March 21 the Minister of Health Olivier Véran during a press point.
The State had announced on March 3 the requisition of "all the stocks and the production of protective masks" to distribute them to the caregivers and patients and launched large orders, in particular in China, to try to fill these gaps. However, the National Union of Nursing Professionals affirmed on April 7 on the basis of an online survey, that more than half of nurses (53%) had "noted a lack" of surgical masks and more than three-quarters (81%) of FFP2 models.
On April 21, the national union of anesthetists and resuscitators said in a statement that "access to surgical masks is improving", but was "not yet possible everywhere".
"Today, on May 19, for the Samu it is tense but the needs are generally covered", explains Mr. Pelloux, who judges the situation "more tense in intensive care".
On May 8, the Ministry of the Economy declared that the weekly supply in France of masks (for single use and reusable), should reach 200 million per week on the date of deconfinement on May 11.