Crisis talks to address mass bedbug infestation in Paris

Bloodsucking insects have been seen on the Eurostar, the Metro and even in cinemas

A biocide technician inspects an apartment in order to treat it against bedbugs in L'Hay-les-Roses, near Paris. Reuters
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The French government is to hold crisis talks on Wednesday to address the surging number of bedbug sightings across Paris.

The bloodsucking insects have been seen on the Eurostar, the Metro and cinemas, raising questions about health and safety across the country.

The apparent mass infestation has spread beyond the capital, with schools in Marseille and near Lyon closed for several days to be cleaned out, according to French media.

On Wednesday, Transport Minister Clement Beaune will host transport and passenger organisations, to “quantify the situation and strengthen the measures”.

“We want to inform on the actions undertaken and act in the service of travellers to reassure and protect,” the ministry said.

An interministerial meeting is scheduled to take place on Friday, to “rapidly bring answers for the French”, government spokesman Olivier Veran told a French TV channel.

France 24 reported that a cross-party bill will also be put forward in December to combat the “scourge”.

The small insects often live on furniture or bedding and can be difficult to eradicate. While their bites can be itchy, they do not usually cause other health problems.

Videos showing the insects crawling over seats on the Paris Metro and in a high-speed train have gone viral on social media in the last few weeks. Some Metro passengers have posted videos on TikTok vowing to stay standing when in carriages.

Public transport operator RATP, which runs Paris’s metro, trams and buses said it had investigated, but “no cases of bedbugs have been confirmed to date”.

In early September, cinema chain UGC said it was deploying dogs to detect bedbugs after “questions” from customers at its Bercy theatre.

The reports have become a political issue in France, which is currently hosting the Rugby World Cup and will stage the Paris Olympics next June.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the government is working to find long-term solutions for detecting infestations and supporting those affected. The Health Ministry recommended that travellers inspect hotel beds and that people should be careful when purchasing used furniture or mattresses.

Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire called on President Emmanuel Macron to set up a task force to help with infestations in the capital, saying “no one is safe” from the “scourge” of bedbugs in a letter to Ms Borne.

He said the government should declare the problem a “public health issue” ahead of the Paris Olympics.

Mathilde Panot, president of the left-wing France Unbowed group in the National Assembly, raised the issue in government questions on Tuesday. “Do we need to wait for Matignon to be infested for you to react?” she asked, referring to the prime minister’s office.

There are also reports that the infestation is spreading internationally.

Port authorities in Tangier, Morocco said they had detected bedbugs on a passenger ship from Marseille, according to media reports. Channel Tunnel express-train operator Eurostar said it plans to introduce “preventive treatment” across its entire network.

One Eurostar passenger, Niagale Bagayoko, posted several photos of what appears to be one of the bugs on her clothing to her X social media account, with the caption “Monday, September 25, in Eurostar, London-Paris train, 6am.”

A Eurostar representative said it “will also disinfect a train on request or as soon as there is the slightest doubt” about the presence of bedbugs.

Between 2017 and 2022, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety reported that more than one in 10 homes in France was infested with bedbugs, at a total cost of €1.4 billion ($1.47 billion).

Updated: October 04, 2023, 9:14 AM