In an opinion, the High Council for Public Health recommends “maintaining stocks [de masques] in the general population” to prepare for possible “infectious risks”.
This is a lesson to be learned from the current health crisis. In March 2020, when the Covid-19 hit France hard, the French discovered with amazement their dependence on foreign countries, especially for basic products such as medicines. Masks are also quickly running out for professionals fighting step by step with the virus, causing controversy.
Two years later, health authorities are preparing for the future. In February, the General Directorate of Health (DGS) contacted the High Council for Public Health (HCSP) to “determine the number of masks, respiratory protective devices (APR) and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to be kept in the State stock managed by Public Health France“. A way to ensure that France would be ready to deal with possible health crises, avoiding the fiasco of spring 2020.
In a notice dated April 15 and published this Wednesdaythe experts recall first of all that they have determined several types of target populations: health professionals,non-professional health personnel», patients, contact cases, people at risk and the general population. Each target has its specificities, but state stocks must cover “at least 10 weeks” of mask needs for the different groups. “The State has built up a national stock of masks, the level of which has been set at 800 million surgical masks, and 200 million FFP2 masks to cover 10 weeks of crisis consumption.“, specified a review from last august.
It is difficult to precisely estimate the quantities needed, recognizes the HCSP. To define them, three scenarios are proposed: one where “the entire target population wears a surgical mask“, the other where surgical masks or FFP2 can be worn alternately, and a third where “all professionals and the general population» wear FFP2. On a daily basis, if the needs vary according to the scenarios, they remain significant: a health professional would use between four and twelve per day, a professional in contact with the public between two and eight, a contact case between two and four, a person immunocompromised between three and six and an average person moving between two and three.
Quantity is not everything: even when equipment is available,driftsand bad practices limit their usefulness. Thereby, “citizens not systematically throwing away their masks after removal, handling them regularly and then storing them in their pockets for reuse» are all counter-examples, showing that, in general, the instructions for the proper use of protections «are difficult to apply in the general population», Specifies the HCSP.
Two boxes of masks recommended
The demand would therefore be significant, and requires preparation. In its various recommendations with a view to a possible future pandemic, the HCSP suggests in particular studying more precisely the “effective use of masks in the general population“, and to promote reusable masks as a priority. The French should also be encouraged to “permanently have a stock of one or two boxes of masks for the general public“at home, so that it is possible to protect immediately”the entire population by universal masking“, the time to mobilize state stocks.
Reusable masks should remain marketed, adds the HCSP. State reserves, meanwhile, should integrate FFP2 masks “of different sizes to take account of facial morphologies» and manufacturers should be encouraged to «maintain production capacity for reusable cloth masks for the general public“. Additionally, a “local local stock at the expense of employers and citizensshould be maintained.
Please note that these recommendations are only “recommendations»: it is up to the authorities to seize it or not. But the message is clear: France must arm itself to deal with future health crises, and citizens also have their part to play, by keeping stocks at home. For the time being, in France, since the lifting of the obligation which governed public transport, the mask is no longer required except in certain very specific places: health and medico-social establishments, such as hospitals, surgeries medical professionals, pharmacies, laboratories or nursing homes. The famous square of fabric is required there “if the health situation requires it», says the Ministry of Health.