Supermarkets in France are selling millions of face masks as of today but the move has been met with anger from healthcare workers who believe they may have been sitting on a “secret” stockpile.
Renaud Muselier, the president of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, is leading the charge and has given “three days to supermarkets to prove that they did not have a secret stockpile of masks during the crisis!”
In the statement he posted on Twitter, he added: “The healthcare workers needed them, the regions of France and the state worked hard to procure themselves some: if this is confirmed, I will immediately file a complaint.”
Muselier, 60, who is also a former MEP and who has worked hard to secure masks from abroad, also said: “While our country is in an exceptional situation, which has resulted in an undeniably shortage of masks, whether they be surgical or for the general public, and after the Government announced the sale of these masks, until now unobtainable for the general public, these supermarkets announce, with lots of communication, the sale of hundreds of millions of masks (notably Carrefour, Lidl, Super U and Intermarche!”
Meanwhile, in a joint press release, the Orders of the health professions were indignant at the “staggering” number of masks announced for sale by big brand supermarkets while caregivers and patients experienced a great shortage.
Their statement said: “Every war has its profiteers. It is unfortunately an intangible law of our conflicts. How can we explain that our caregivers were not equipped with masks when we announce with great advertising the staggering numbers of masks for sale to the public by some distribution channels.
The statement added: “The masks are falling.” It also said: “100 million here, 50 million there. Who can do better? This is the outbidding of indecency.”
Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of Economy, however, said today that the big brands had “played fair” and that this scandal was a “bad polemic”. He said: “I note that big brands, since the beginning of the health crisis, have played fair, notably to guarantee the security of the supply of food to the French people.”
Le Maire, 60, added: “I really think it is a bad polemic.”
The Secretary of State for the Economy and Finance, Agnes Pannier-Runacher, said on Europe 1 radio that it was an “inappropriate trial”.
Pannier-Runacher, 45, added: “At a time when we all need to prepare for the end of isolation, nous prefer to rely on all public and private actors.”
According to her, when big shop names announce “500 million masks, first there is confusion between surgical and textile masks, then they are taking the number of masks for the next 4 months. One should not confuse orders and deliveries.”
She added: “All orders over 5 million masks have to be submitted to the national health agency who has the right to requisition them.”
Advert for masks today in a supermarket in Paris. The advert says that packets of 50 masks are being sold for 29.54 EUR (25.99 GBP) and that they are available at the checkout. They add specifies that the offer is limited to one packet per day and per person.
Various brands have claimed their innocence regarding the accusation that they hoarded masks, with supermarket Casino, for instance, telling local media that the masks on sale today are the result of orders placed a few days ago and that they come from China.
Michel-Edouard Leclerc, head of the supermarket chain Leclerc, has also stated to local media that there were “no hidden stocks”, adding that the scandal is “absurd”.
According to the head of the Federation of Commerce and Distribution (FCD) Jacques Creyssel, the masks are being sold “at cost”, “for less than a euro, often for around 60 cents (0.53 GBP).”
Masks are said to be arriving in batches in France all week. Intermarche have reportedly ordered 90 million surgical masks, while Leclerc has ordered 170 million. Carrefour says it has ordered 175 million masks, while Lidl has ordered 100 million.
Spokespeople for a number of the supermarkets all told local media that masks would be arriving “drop by drop.”
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Story By: Joseph Golder, Sub-Editor: Michael Leidig, Agency: Newsflash
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