French government steps in to regulate face masks and hand gels during coronavirus outbreak

The French government is taking extra action around the supply of surgical face masks and hand gels as hospitals report thefts of 10,000 masks amid coronavirus fears.

French government steps in to regulate face masks and hand gels during coronavirus outbreak
Pharmacies across France have been running out of face masks. All photos: AFP

Hôpitaux de Paris has reported the theft of 8,300 masks from its sites, as well as 1,200 bottles of hand sanitiser gel, while the Hôpital de la Conception in Marseille reported the theft of 2,000 masks.

Masks have become something of a hot topic since the coronavirus outbreak began, with the government announcing on Tuesday that it was stepping in to requisition stocks of masks to ensure they get to the people who need them.

Follow the latest updates on the situation in France here

The government's advice is that only people are are infected or who are self isolating need to wear masks.

The masks are intended only to stop people from passing on the infection, they do not prevent people from catching it and should not be worn by people who do not fit in to the above groups.

But the message does not seem to have been filtering through and many pharmacies and online stores have run out completely.

Ministers had been asking people who do not need a mask not to buy one, as this creates shortages for priority patients. However after this advice was ignored the government then stepped in to take direct control.

President Emmanuel Macron announced that the government would requisition all stocks and distribute them to people who need them.


The French government had already ordered large stocks of masks for health professionals.

The other thing affected by the outbreak is hand sanitiser gel – which many stores have sold out of while some customers have reported a massive hike in prices.

READ ALSO Coronavirus: The everyday precautions you can take to stay safe in France

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire announced on Wednesday that a decree would be passed capping the price of hand sanitisers to end this problem.

Official health advice is for people to wash their hands thoroughly and regularly, particularly before eating or after couching, sneezing or touching surfaces that many other people will have touched such as the Metro, elevator buttons and money.

The official health advice in France is;

  • Wash hands your thoroughly and often with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing or before eating or it you have been touching surfaces that many other people will have touched such as on the Metro
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Cover your mouth with your elbow when coughing
  • Use disposable tissues and throw them away after use
  • Clean off surfaces with alcohol- or chlorine-based disinfectants.

The government advises that anyone recently returned from China (including Hong Kong and Macau), South Korea, Singapore, Iran or the Lombardy, Veneto or Emilia-Romagna regions of Italy should self isolate for 14 days

This means you should;

  • Monitor your temperature twice a day
  • Watch for symptoms of respiratory infection (cough, difficulty breathing)
  • Wear a surgical mask when you are in front of another person and when you have to go out
  • Wash your hands regularly or use a sanitiser gel
  • Avoid any contact with vulnerable people (pregnant women, those with ongoing health problems, elderly people
  • Avoid frequenting places where vulnerable people are present (hospitals, maternity wards, old people's homes)
  • Avoid all non-essential outings (large gatherings, restaurants, cinema)
  • Workers/Students: as far as possible, choose home working and avoid close contact (meetings, lifts, canteen)
  • Children should not be sent to school or nursery

The French government also passed a decree on February 1st that states that anyone who is self isolating (or whose children cannot go to school because of coronavirus) is entitled to 20 days of paid sick leave.

READ ALSO Coronavirus in France: How worried should you be?


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‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief.