The administrative justice ruled on Tuesday that the State had committed a fault by not ensuring that sufficient stocks of masks were maintained before the Covid-19 epidemic, but did not go so far as to judge it directly responsible for certain cases. . “The State has committed a fault by refraining from constituting a sufficient stock of masks to fight against a pandemic linked to a highly pathogenic respiratory agent”, declared the administrative court of Paris in a decision handed down on Tuesday.
Statements that were able to “dissuade the population from using masks”
The court also found that the state had committed a fault by making “statements which may have had the effect, in particular, of dissuading the population from using masks”. In the first months of the pandemic, at the start of 2020, vagueness reigned over the interest in wearing surgical masks to protect against Covid-19 or avoid spreading it.
At the time, the government favored the idea of reserving masks for caregivers directly exposed to patients, in a context of insufficient stocks. With a state stock of around 100 million units, France quickly found itself destitute, sometimes leaving health professionals and other exposed trades, such as supermarket cashiers, helpless.
Critics have also targeted the government’s fluctuating communication on the subject. From useless for the general public, the mask finally became compulsory in closed places in July 2020 and became widespread everywhere at the end of the summer. Around thirty plaintiffs had therefore taken the State to court, judging that this attitude had directly contributed to the fact that they caught the Covid.
No direct link with the contamination of the complainants
But justice has only partly given them reason. If he recognizes that the State has faulted in its management of the masks, the court judges that a direct link cannot be established with the contaminations of the complainants.
Justice underlines three points: the “random” nature of the transmission of the virus, the observation that a mask does not protect against Covid for sure and, finally, the fact that the State took at the time of other measures likely to limit contamination such as the encouragement to maintain physical distances.
It therefore rejects the plaintiffs’ claims for compensation. In addition, he considers unjustified other accusations on crisis management, such as that of not having launched generalized screening early enough.