How did we arrive at such a situation? For several weeks, the lack of masks has been the subject of debate in France as the country experiences its fourth week of confinement in an attempt to stem the epidemic of coronavirus. Wednesday, the president of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône strongly criticized the requisition by the prefect of the Grand Est region of a large part of the 3.5 million masks she was to receive. In fact, only 300,000 finally reached him.
This is not an isolated situation which is explained by regionalization via the regional health agencies for stock management. And that's where the rub is, according to Aurélien Rouquet, professor of logistics at the Neoma Business School, guest of the Europe 1 morning show.
"There are no more stocks nationwide"
"The State has decided, notably following the crisis of the HN1 virus which did not have the expected effects, to rethink its stock management and to have a 'distinction' between strategic stock and tactical stocks. Strategic stocks , between 2009 and 2010, concerned both surgical masks and FFP2 masks. But after the crisis, the state decided that FFP2 would only be managed on a regional scale, "said the specialist. And for Aurélien Rouquet, this is where the problem lies: there are no longer stocks at the national level capable of restocking those regional in FFP2 masks, currently reserved for nursing staff, because they would better protect against the virus .
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Especially since, "if the stocks of surgical masks amounted to a billion, it was decided that the State was solely responsible for the stocks of masks intended for sick people and their entourage. It was therefore to private employers and companies to ensure that they have a stock of masks for their workers in contact with people ", he summarizes before concluding:" Suddenly, the result is that at the beginning of the crisis we had a lot less centralized stocks at the state level and stocks of FFP2 and surgical masks which have spread a little everywhere with the difficulty of having an exact visibility on these stocks ".
"We must make a large stock, which the State has not done"
In response to the lack of masks, many companies such as PSA but also the umbrella manufacturer in Cherbourg have mobilized to reorganize their production and manufacture these precious tools for the medical world. A beautiful gesture which is also a "sign of weakness", according to the logistics professor.
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"If we have identified that masks are a strategic resource in the event of a pandemic and I think that a certain number of reports have shown it very well, either we have the productive capacities internally in France to very quickly increase in capacity either , if we do not have them. However, if we rely on supplies that are far away, we must make a large stock, which the State has not done, "he deplores. "We had no more stocks and we relied on production capacities abroad. So, we find ourselves in the situation of current shortage."