To face the Covid-19 global pandemic, protective masks are one of the keys to the economic recovery plan in France.
Governments and companies around the world are tearing up the available stocks.
This is an opportunity to take stock of best practices for the supply of masks and medical goods between customs, transport and sourcing.
The different types of filter masks
There are essentially three types of masks:
- Spray masks: they are intended to limit the transmission of infectious agents. They are used to trap droplets of saliva when the wearer exhales. They are surgical type masks with the EN 14683 standard.
- Respiratory protection masks: they protect the wearer against both the inhalation of droplets and airborne particles that could contain infectious agents. They are equipped with filters with 3 filtration levels: FFP1, FFP2, and FFP3. They are standardised to NF EN 149. These protective masks come under category III personal protective equipment (PPE), whose standards are very rigorous as they are designed to protect against the following hazards fatal and/or may cause irreversible damage.
- Insulating masks: insulating breathing apparatus or SCBA, they have their own oxygen reserve.
To meet the growing need of professionals, the Government added on March 29, 2020 new categories of masks for non-health uses intended to protect only against droplet projections.
- Individual filtering masks for use by professionals in contact with the public.
- Filter masks for collective protection to protect an entire group (without contact with the public).
As a reminder, fabric masks are not sanitary masks unless they meet normative requirements and have been tested. The DGE makes available a table of producers of tested masks.
Importation of masks
In order to facilitate the importation of masks for companies, the Customs Directorate indicated in a note on 26 March 2020 that “until the end of the sanitary crisis, masks can be imported without CE marking provided that the importer establishes that they comply with European standards or certain foreign standards recognized as equivalent, at the time of importation”. The DGDDI has also put online a table listing the European or international standards currently allowed for import.
The documents to be provided for importing masks are the usual documents (AWB, Invoice, Incoterms, etc.) but for protective masks of the FFP2 type, they fall under category III PPE. Therefore it will be necessary to provide: a type examination certificate (test report), a declaration of conformity to type drawn up by a notified body, a declaration of conformity made by the importer. For surgical masks, it is necessary to present: a declaration of conformity. As a reminder, masks are subject to customs duties of 6.3% and VAT at 20%. State bodies or private organisations that use this equipment for free distribution to sick people and/or medical staff are exempt from VAT.
- Customs has published a clear and useful computer graphics for importing masks.
Supply of masks and protections
The Ministry of Economy and Finance, in partnership with Mirakl, offers a marketplace that allows front-line professionals (health, food processing, mass distribution, transport, etc.) to contact and place orders directly with producers and distributors of essential products such as gel, sanitary masks, gowns and other products.
The textile sector (CSF mode) has also set up an organisation so that sellers and buyers can contact each other. After registering, as a professional you will have access to a lot of information, including a file listing all French producers of fabric masks, with contact details and production volume.