French government to hold crisis meetings on bedbug 'scourge'

French government to hold crisis meetings on bedbug 'scourge'

Shafaq News /In recent weeks bedbugs have emerged as a contentious political issue in France. Aghast citizens have spotted the insects on trains and in cinemas.

The concerns have gained urgency with France hosting the Rugby World Cup and Paris preparing to welcome athletes and fans from around the world for the 2024 Olympics.

Two schools – one in Marseille and the other one in Villefranche-sur-Saone outside Lyon in south-eastern France – have become infected with bedbugs and have been closed down for several days to be cleaned out, local authorities said.

A meeting on Wednesday, which will see Transport Minister Clement Beaune host transport and passenger organisations, aims to "quantify the situation and strengthen the measures", his ministry said.

An inter-ministerial meeting will then take place on Friday, government spokesman Olivier Veran told RTL TV, promising to "rapidly bring answers".

Meanwhile, the head of President Emmanuel Macron's Renaissance party in the National Assembly, Sylvain Maillard, said a cross-party text would be ready by the start of December to combat the "scourge".

Maillard said the party and its allies had decided to make the subject a "priority" and urged the right-wing and hard-left opposition to come up with suggestions for a cross-party text.

Renaissance MP Bruno Studer said that a priority would be counting the number of bedbugs.

"We do not know today if there are more bedbugs than in 2019," he said.

In addition to the development of statistical tools, the text could also make it possible to recognise the problem as "a question of public health".

Health Minister Aurelien Rousseau told FranceInter radio there was no "general panic" over the issue.

"What concerns me is that people do not get cheated by firms that make them pay 2,000 or 3,000 euros" to rid their houses of bedbugs, he added, denouncing "abuses" in the pest control sector.

Bed bugs, which had largely disappeared from daily life by the 1950s, have made a resurgence in recent decades – mostly due to high population densities and more mass transit.

They get their name from their habit of nesting in mattresses, although they can also hide in clothes and in luggage. They come out at night to feed on human blood.

The insects have been spotted in the Paris metro, high-speed trains and at Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport.

But the individual cases have not been confirmed by the authorities and RMC TV reported that a probe by Paris transport operator RATP had found no bedbugs on its services.

According to figures published on Wednesday by the French pest control organisation, 65 percent more pest control operations were carried out in June, July and August 2023 than over the same period in 2022.

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