Chanel turns its workshops to making face masks against coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: Chanel logo is seen on the company's store in Monte Carlo, Monaco, December 9, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

(This Mar 29 story corrects number of staff, clarifies they are in France.)

PARIS (Reuters) - Luxury fashion group Chanel said on Sunday it would launch production of face masks to help bolster supplies in France as the coronavirus sweeps across the country.

Prototypes were being worked on and would roll off production lines once they received the approval of French authorities.

“Today we are mobilizing our workforce and our partners ... to produce protective masks and blouses,” Chanel said in a statement.

On Saturday, Health Minister Olivier Veran said the government had ordered more than a billion face masks, mostly from China, to be supplied in the weeks and months ahead.

France was using 40 million face masks per week, he said. Doctors, nursing home carers and police have complained of shortages.

Chanel also said it would not be putting any of its 8,500 employees in France into temporary unemployment as it weathers the sharp downtown in economic activity.

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Catherine Evans