Next pandemic: will we have enough masks?

Next pandemic: will we have enough masks?

The opinion of the Paris Court of Appeal does not suffer from any ambiguity. “ The State made a mistake by not maintaining a sufficient level of a stock of masks to combat a pandemic linked to a highly pathogenic respiratory agent,” she ruled in October 2023, confirming a first decision rendered a year and a half earlier.

During the first months of Covid-19the lack of facial protection, particularly for caregivers, had caused controversy. However, experts and international health agencies are calling to prepare now for a next pandemic, considered inevitable. So, has the State learned its lessons?

According to the figures provided to us by the Directorate General of Health, France currently has a “mobilizable state stock” of around 1.3 billion masks (including 70% surgical masks). This, acquired and stored by the French Public Health agency which “maintains it in operational conditions”, aims to “respond to serious health threats”.

A billion masks in 2009 for the H1N1 virus

This number far exceeds that at the start of Covid, according to statements at the time. “We have a state stockpile of approximately 150 million surgical masks and no stockpile of FFP2 masks. It had been decided, following previous health crises – I go back to 2011 and 2013 – that there was no longer any need to keep massive stocks of masks in the territory,” indicated the Minister of Health of the era, Olivier Véranwithout convincing the critics.

In April 2009, at the time of the coronavirus pandemic, H1N1 flu, the State had in its reserves a billion surgical masks and 700 million FFP2, according to a senatorial report published that year. The current stock therefore appears less. Finally, let us point out that employers, public or private, may also have their own stocks of masks, which are not known.

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