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22.09.2020 Europe

France appeals for blood donations as virus drives stocks to 'historic low'

By Amanda Morrow with RFI
LISTEN SEP 22, 2020

France's blood service has called for emergency donations to replenish reserves that have been driven to historic lows by the Covid-19 crisis.

The president of the French Blood Establishment (EFS), François Toujas, on Tuesday said the situation was "extremely worrisome”, with 10,000 donations per day now needed to meet the demands of patients. 

While the coronavirus has forced the cancellation of mobile blood collections at workplaces and universities – which normally account for 80 percent of blood donations – demand in hospitals has been steadily rising.

"We are delivering more blood than we collect and the reserves are falling,” the ESF warned in a statement.

Despite an EFS alert issued on 26 August, the situation has continued to deteriorate, with stocks dropping to a 10-year low of 86,000 bags of red blood cells – significantly less than the 100,000 bags the EFS says is needed to supply enough of each blood group to hospitals. 

Given blood products have a limited lifespan of just a few weeks, stocks were particularly depleted over the summer period, when holidays and a heatwave further deterred donors.

For safety reasons, France is unable to import blood collected abroad, although regions within France are able to help each other.

"Right now, we have 20 percent less collection than usual,” Dr Ahmed Slimani, who is in charge of collections at the EFS, told Le Parisien. “People really need to understand that they need to give blood.”  

Strict sanitary protocols

The EFS has urged employers to facilitate blood drives in the workplace, and calling on local authorities to organise mobile donor clinics in towns across the country.

It has published strict sanitary instructions on its website. Mask-wearing, physical distancing and reinforced hygiene will be mandatory at all blood collection points.

Although Covid-19 cannot be transmitted through blood transfusions, anyone who has experienced symptoms is asked to wait 28 days before donating.

Donation points can be found on the website or by downloading the EFS's official app Don de Sang (donate blood).

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