PARIS — France has ordered more than one billion protective masks, mainly from China, to try to make up for a shortage that is being felt in nations fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Health Minister Olivier Veran announced.
But French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, noting tensions in world markets, suggested at a news conference that traffickers and black marketeers are now in the mask business, given the competition in procuring the vital necessity for health workers.
Veran said that an “air bridge” to China was being put in place, but “I will have the certitude (the masks arrived) … only the minute the planes are on the tarmac.” He said one major difficulty is that countries already hit by the virus remain vigilant that should the epidemic return they are equipped.
As of Saturday, France had 37,575 confirmed cases and 2,314 deaths — with 319 new deaths in the last 24 hours, health authorities said.
The prime minister warned the French that “the fight has just begun.”