France seizes 440,000 masks as it breaks smuggling medical networks

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PARIS (Reuters) – French police have dismantled contraband networks trying to take advantage of the rush to buy medical supplies, including masks to fight the coronavirus epidemic, the interior minister said on Friday.

At the end of April, the police had dismantled a number of these contraband networks, arrested the scams and attempted scams worth more than 30 million euros ($ 32 million) and seized 438,000 masks, it said. -he declares.

In addition, 5.7 million masks ostensibly ordered on the Internet have been the subject of a scam or attempted scam, he said.

The government has been criticized by doctors and opposition politicians for being undecided on whether to demand that the masks be worn in public and for purchasing too few.

“Masks have become a wanted item, and therefore something you steal or use to scam people,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters.

“If this crisis has often shown the best of ourselves and has enabled exceptional acts of solidarity, it has also been an opportunity, unfortunately, for some to try to take advantage of the situation, to exploit fear and disease “.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe advised the public on Thursday to wear face masks and made them mandatory on public transport for anyone over the age of 11 after the lock was lifted on Monday.

Castaner said that 10 million washable masks had been given to transport operators throughout France, including 4.4 million in Ile-de-France around Paris, to be distributed free to travelers from Monday.

He said more than 200 million new masks would be made available every week, adding, “We have one goal: to make sure that every French person can get a mask. “($ 1 = 0.9240 euros)

(Report by Sybille de La Hamaide; Edited by Kevin Liffey)

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