Europe

French sports retailer gives diving masks to caregivers

Decathlon offers bestselling product to medical community in order to save lives

Cindi Cook   | 04.04.2020
French sports retailer gives diving masks to caregivers

PARIS

In France, even actors in the sports world are doing their part to ease the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

French sporting goods retailer Decathlon announced that it will donate the remainder of its Subea Easybreath diving mask stock to caregivers and hospitals in Europe for use in the crisis.

The company, which has a presence in 70 countries, including Turkey, will give 30,000 masks each to hospitals in France and Spain, and 10,000 to hospitals in Italy – all for free.

Since most factories are shuttered at the moment with shipping at a standstill, the manufacturing of masks has halted. Decathlon's management realizes the critical need for masks, especially in Europe's healthcare facilities, which have been hammered by the coronavirus outbreak and a general shortage of supplies.

"We're very proud that these are going to all the people fighting the disease, and all who are helping them," said Xavier Rivoire, head of external communications for Decathlon United.

There is an estimated need nationwide in France for 40 million masks per week. Last week, the government ordered a billion surgical masks from China, and President Emmanuel Macron pledged €4 billion ($4.3 billion) in additional funds on Tuesday morning for medical supplies, masks, and respirators to fight the epidemic.

Rivoire says the initiative started in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, when a small 3D printing firm came to their offices to say that the Easybreath mask is the one product on the market that could most easily be adapted to use with ventilators.

"Decathlon Italy said yes to the firm, to donate masks to them but to also afford them use of the blueprint to make the product," he explained.

The initial order proved that Easybreath works to ventilate patients and protect the doctors who work with them. Its use depends on the hospital, medical facility or research center; some employ the mask to protect the doctor from patients, and some quickly adapt it to help patients breathe better. Certain hospitals use it for both.

Its use has quickly spread to other facilities in Italy, then in France, and beyond, reports Rivoire.

"We’re now receiving requests from all five continents, even institutions like NASA are interested."

The mask is made mostly of plastic and contains a valve that can be hooked to a ventilator with the right configuration, so Decathlon has passed on the blueprint for its manufacture to authorized institutions who request it.

"Most are using a 3D printer to make the valve that plugs into the ventilator on the basis of the blueprint."

Rivoire adds that many entities, from small start-ups to large institutions such as Stanford University and NASA, are trying to assist in making the masks.

France entered its second wave of confinement on Tuesday, put in place initially by Macron in mid March. The mandate puts a prohibition on leaving one's home for essential trips only, to curb the spread of COVID-19. The deadly virus that started in Wuhan, China in December was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization in February and quickly took hold in Europe at the beginning of March.

Last month, Europe was declared the virus’ new epicenter, superseding China.

More than 1.1 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide and over 58,900 people have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Rivoire sees nothing but a win-win by medical facilities using the Decathlon Easybreath mask.

"If this small but very innovative sporting product can be used in the way it is, we are so touched. It's a great sign of hope for us all."

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