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Coronavirus: French protective mask manufacturer scraps NHS order to keep masks in France

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A family doctor in France wears a protective face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19
A family doctor in France wears a protective face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19   -   Copyright  AFP
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France has forced a face mask manufacturer to cancel a major UK order as the coronavirus-inspired scramble for protective gear intensifies.

The National Health Service ordered millions of masks from Valmy SAS near Lyon earlier this year as COVID-19 threatened.

But amid a global shortage, France earlier this week ordered the requisition of all protective masks made in the country.

It comes after the World Health Organisation warned a mask shortfall was leaving doctors "dangerously ill-equipped" to look after COVID-19 patients.

"We are facing a big problem: who to prioritise" explained company director Nicolas Brillat. "The requisition does not allow any wiggle room for us to deliver to the NHS, but it is complicated because the NHS was the first client to order and uses our masks all year long."

The disposable protection has become harder to find and more expensive to buy since the COVID-19 outbreak in early January.

Thousands of masks have also been stolen from hospitals in Paris and Marseille.

But, under the requisition order, medical supplies will be distributed to French pharmacies and hospitals.

Valmy SAS has also increased production to make 10 times more masks than usual.

"We had to find solutions, find people, integrate them, train them, dispatch them on the machines, and get the new teams going," added Brillat.

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