The bedbug scandal is growing and is now beyond French borders. The British and American foreign press have taken up in recent days this health problem which affects Paris, less than a year before the Olympic Games. Far from reassuring their readers, the English-speaking media fuel and export anxiety among tourists who dream of luxury and the Eiffel Tower.
“Widespread epidemic”, “Paris is teeming with bedbugs”, “No one is safe”… The media are playing the alarmist card with headlines, each more catastrophic than the last. According to the newspapers, bedbugs are everywhere; forcing “horrified” travelers “to pay special attention before sitting down or dropping cloth bags or coats on the ground at their feet” on public transport, the American television channel writes on its website CBS. “France was the fifth country most visited by Americans in 2019,” Forbes magazine points out.
Faced with psychosis, this same magazine wanted to advise its most adventurous readers, who would dare to go to France soon, on the actions to adopt. The American magazine published an article on "how to spot bedbugs and avoid bringing them home on your next trip." In particular, he recommends putting “a steroid cream” or “an antihistamine” in your suitcase for itching in view of possible bedbug bites, and “putting your suitcases on supports” at the hotel and not on the bed, which could be infested.
Some press titles also have fun contrasting the image of dirt that these pests see with the idyllic image of a Paris dreamed of by tourists. Especially since this health scandal occurs in the middle of Fashion Week, which took place from September 25 to October 3. “A “generalized” epidemic of bedbugs invades Paris during Fashion Week,” headlines the American magazine Time, for example, which writes that this event was held “far from the usual glamour”. The height for all celebrities and fashion enthusiasts who come to seek French refinement and luxury.
But in reality, there is only one global event that worries foreign newspapers: the Olympic Games. Everyone is wondering how the city of Paris and the French state are going to exterminate all these little invasive creatures before the whole world arrives next summer. “Bedbugs torment Paris before the 2024 Olympic Games: “No one is safe””, headlined the Washington Post, using the words of Emmanuel Grégoire, deputy mayor of Paris.
The American television channel CNN, as well as other media, also points the finger at French political leaders who “claim not to be worried”, like Emmanuel Grégoire. “Bugs have always been there,” he said on LCI on September 30, before arguing that these insects are not a “threat to the Olympics.”
The lack of political action until today is thus highlighted by the international press. The Guardian mentions in particular the case of Mathilde Panot, leader of the Insoumis in the Assembly, who had been “mocked” while she has been alerting on the subject since 2019. A sign that the executive has grasped the seriousness of situation, an emergency meeting is being held this Wednesday, at the request of the Minister of Transport, Clément Beaune, with all the operators concerned. Another meeting, this time interministerial, will take place on Friday. Tuesday October 3, the RATP assured after carrying out an expertise that “no case of bedbugs was noted in our equipment”.
However, France is not the only country fighting against these pests. New York, just as touristy and which hosts Fashion Week a week before Paris each year, has also been deeply affected by bedbugs. The city was placed under siege in the 2010s and the mayor at the time, Mike Bloomberg, had to appoint a “bedbug czar” to resolve the problem. Meanwhile on social networks, many users are making fun of the situation in the French capital, while others are posting videos on how not to bring bedbugs home after their vacation.