Everything for masks. After having held contradictory messages since the beginning of the epidemic of Coronavirus which killed more than 2,600 people in France, on the use of masks, the government is today making their import and production a priority. After announcing on Saturday an XXL order for caregivers of a billion masks, mainly from China, the executive is also maneuvering to boost production on French soil.
Among the various measures taken by the State in recent days in favor of products made in France, we can first mention the decision to better secure the supply of the four main French producers of FFP2 and surgical masks (Valmy, Paul Boyé, Kolmi and VSP) in raw materials and equipment. “We are working to increase these supply capacities tenfold, in particular by importing additional machines,” it is said in Bercy. We also encourage large companies to buy more than their own needs to benefit SMEs.
A need for 40 million masks per week
The Ministry of Economy and Finance indicates that with this support, the French groups, which produced 15 million masks per month before the crisis, will reach 40 million in April. Intended for health professionals, they will not however be able to meet the needs of caregivers, which the Minister of Health Olivier Véran has estimated at 40 million per week. A deficit which explains the emergency order made by Paris from Beijing and the establishment of a spectacular air bridge between the two countries.
But the State, which also has the right to requisition orders from companies as soon as they exceed five million masks, is also trying to boost French production of personal protective masks for professional use (called category 1 , they can be used by cashier hostesses or law enforcement) and those whose protection is collective (category 2). In this context, the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA), whose own laboratories are also used to make masks, has just validated 85 prototypes of masks offered by 45 companies. A total of 179 companies had presented 272 prototypes to the DGA. According to the executive, these qualifications should enable the production of 480,000 category 1 and 2 masks daily by the end of April.
In this sense, Bercy launched a call for proposals with the National Industry Council, the Euramaterials and Techtera competitiveness clusters, the Union of Textile Industries (UIT), the French Fashion and Clothing Union (UFIMH) and the 'French Textile and Clothing Institute, “aimed at companies ready to offer solutions to increase national production capacity”.
The private sector in support
In addition to this state intervention, there is also the reorientation of production by several companies. For example, the Kering group announced on March 22 that some of its brands, such as Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, were going to make masks. He also promised that he would deliver 3 million surgical masks ordered from China to French health services. Competitor of Kering, the luxury giant LVMH had announced the day before, its intention to offer 10 million masks, worth five million euros, while Bouygues announced that it would donate one million. Airbus is also participating in this effort since the aircraft manufacturer has just dispatched an A330-200 being converted into a supply aircraft to bring back to Europe 4 million masks, intended for France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.