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Iran Press TV

French govt. management of PPE has left elderly exposed to coronavirus: Report

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 12 May 2020 5:05 PM

The French government's intervention to exclusively manage the distribution of personal protection equipment (PPE) amid the coronavirus epidemic has over time had a side effect of leaving a portion of France's elderly population more at risk.

In a report published on Tuesday, Reuters said French President Emmanuel Macron decided in late February to put his government in control of all stocks of masks in the country, with officials being in charge of distributing them among frontline healthcare workers.

Reuters praised Macron's far-reaching step as "unique among major European states" and cited people in the government as saying that the decision helped channel protective equipment to those most at risk, such as many elderly people and those with underlying chronic health conditions.

"But for some, including hundreds of France's retirement homes, it meant that mask deliveries from private suppliers failed to arrive as expected. As a result, homes with low stocks operated for around 10 days without supplies," the report said.

Elsa Nicoise, the interim manager of the state-owned Emile Gerard retirement home, said the 240-bed facility had placed orders with its usual suppliers for 1,700 protective masks in late February and early March but those orders were still not delivered.

Her two suppliers told Nicoise that the equipment she ordered had been requisitioned by the government, she said.

Nicoise said that she had to ration masks as there were only meager stocks in reserve. "We handed them out parsimoniously."

Seven residents have died of COVID-19 as a result of PPE shortage, and at least seven staffers have tested positive, according to the interim manager of Emile Gerard, which is one of the many facilities affected.

Jean-Pierre Riso, the head of FNADEPA, an industry group that represents retirement home managers in France, said the supply interruption left some residents in nursing homes across the country exposed to the virus.

"The absence of protective equipment in the first weeks of March contributed to the spread of the virus in retirement homes," Riso said.

Reuters said the requisition decree disrupted supplies of tens of thousands of masks to retirement homes – which in total accommodate around one million residents – just as the virus was starting to spread among the vulnerable and elderly.

The news agency said its report was based on interviews with four medical supply distribution firms whose customers include more than 4,000 medical establishments, two nursing home industry representatives, two nursing home managers, and a trade union official.

The French administration reportedly declined to respond to questions about the mask requisition, but the Health Ministry in a statement said its order had been aimed at preventing market speculation and directing supplies where they were most needed.

According to French Health Ministry data, some 9,737 people have died in French nursing homes with coronavirus-related illnesses as of May 9, which is just under 40 percent of total deaths in the outbreak.

The new coronavirus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year before an outbreak there grew into a global pandemic, which has so far infected more than 4.3 million people and killed nearly 290,000 others across the world.

The pandemic has killed some 27,000 people in France, one of the highest tolls in Europe and in the world.

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