So not a turnaround, but a “Doctrine reassessment”, assures Olivier Véran, Minister of Health. Everyone will think what they want, the fact remains that the idea of encouraging the general public to wear a mask to fight the spread of Covid-19 is gradually gaining ground. Asked Saturday about this possible inflection, the Director General of Health, Jérôme Salomon, took a (small) step in this direction during his daily update: “We are learning every day with this new virus. Maybe someday we will offer everyone to wear protection. But we are not there yet. All this is discussed with the experts. (…) We are adapting our position. ”
This change of strategy, which does not yet quite say its name, does not come from nowhere. Many European countries now impose the mask for all in the public space, and the United States clearly turned around on Friday: the government now urges the Americans to cover their faces in order to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, aligning with the new recommendations of the American Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), which in particular insist on the need to protect oneself when shopping.
It is necessary to resort, currently and with a view to breaking out of containment, to the use of an “alternative” mask
The National Academy of Medicine
In France, the National Academy of Medicine hit the nail on the head last Friday: since “it is established that people in the incubation period or in a state of asymptomatic carriage excrete the virus and maintain the transmission of the infection, (…) the generalized wearing of a mask by the population would constitute a logical addition to the barrier measures currently in force ”. The mask as a bulwark “antipostillons”, therefore, as already advocated by many doctors. The academy adds that in view of the current shortage, “it is necessary to resort, currently and with a view to breaking out of confinement, to the use of a mask (…) “alternative”“
No need to go far back to realize that within the executive, the message has evolved. Just last week, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe expressed his skepticism about the mask for everyone strategy: “There has been a lot of criticism of these things, but let me quote Dr. Mike Ryan, who is the WHO executive director for emergency programs. On March 30 (…) he said that there is no evidence that wearing a mask in the population would bring any benefit. “
A doctrine assumed from the start of the crisis by Agnès Buzyn, then Minister of Health, and tirelessly repeated since. Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye even said on March 20 on BFMTV: “Masks are not necessary for everyone. And you know what, I don’t know how to use a mask (…). These are technical, precise gestures, otherwise (…) it can even be counterproductive. ” To believe that the national strategy is largely based on the presumption that the French are incapable of learning to use a mask.
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However, it will be understood: this doctrine aimed to avoid a rush to pharmacies to preserve stocks for those who need them first, caregivers, at a time when the government recognized “Logistical difficulties” to provide them. Today, he is working hard to import more than two billion sanitary masks, but also to increase national production in order to be able to equip other professions. The making of two new categories of alternative masks intended for the moment “for people on the second line” (police, gendarmes, cashiers, etc.), was thus authorized on March 31.
If the line changes, there is a message that Jérôme Salomon will keep repeating: “The alternative masks can be a complement but above all must not induce a feeling of false security” which would result in the abandonment of barrier gestures.
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