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Coronavirus

France to produce 40 million face masks by end of April for domestic battle against Covid-19

French president Emmanuel Macron visits a face mask factory near Angers, 31 March 2020. He announced France would be able to produce the masks it needs to fight the coronavirus outbreak by the end of April.
French president Emmanuel Macron visits a face mask factory near Angers, 31 March 2020. He announced France would be able to produce the masks it needs to fight the coronavirus outbreak by the end of April. © Loic Venance/Pool via Reuters
3 min

France plans to dramatically increase its capacity to produce face masks and respirators to meet the needs of medical staff and hospitals during the coronavirus epidemic. On a visit to a factory producing surgical masks on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron called for European “independence” and “sovereignty” in producing the masks by the end of the year.

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"Before the crisis we produced 3.3 million masks per week; at the end of April we’ll be at more than ten million. We will have more than tripled in a few weeks,” Macron said at the Kolmi-Hopen mask factory outside the city of Angers, which has been producing FFP2 and surgical face masks 24 hours a day.

Macron said France needs at least 40 million face masks per week, and it does not have or produce enough. Companies like Faurecia, Michelin and Intermarché have committed to producing masks, which will increase the country's capacity to produce the required 40 million per week by the end of April.

Macron also said that France has put together a consortium to build 10,000 respirators my mid-May. The group will be led by respirator maker Air Liquide and will also include car parts maker Valeo, car maker PSA and Schneider Electric.

The announcement comes after Macron came under fire from medical workers saying a lack of foresight in stocking protective material has been slowing the response to the epidemic.

Macron said those criticising the government’s response were irresponsible while the crisis was ongoing.

“The time will come” for “complete transparency”, he said.

Countries helping each other

China has sent 15 million masks to France, and European countries have delivered medical goods to Iran, in the first transaction under the Instex mechanism set up by France, Germany and the United Kingdom to bypass US sanctions

"Now the first transaction is complete, Instex and its Iranian counterpart STFI will work on more transactions and enhancing the mechanism," the German foreign ministry said Tuesday.

Iran has seen 40,000 official coronavirus cases, with over 2,700 deaths in a crisis the government says could last weeks and could cost 10,000 lives.

At the end of February, US president Donald Trump offered aid to Iran, which Supreme leader Ali Khamenei said he would refuse.

The offer "to help us with medicines and treatments, provided we ask for them, is strange", he said.

On Monday, Trump said the US will send medical equipment to Italy, and later to France and Spain, without giving specifics.

Hospitals in New York and elsewhere do not have basic supplies, like face masks. Though Trump said he would send “things that we don't need to other parts," and that when "we outpace what we need" on ventilators, they too will be shipped.

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