In the wake of rising concerns about bedbug infestations in Paris, just a year before the upcoming Olympics, the city is grappling with the potential impact on public transit and tourist accommodations. The issue has reached the highest levels of government, prompting calls for urgent action to address what has been described as a “scourge.”
Videos circulating on social media depict bedbugs crawling on high-speed trains and the Paris Metro, raising alarm among the public. Sightings have been reported not only in public transportation but also in cinemas and even at Charles de Gaulle Airport. The situation has escalated to the point where online articles about bedbugs have become increasingly common.
Transport Minister Clemente Beaune, responding to the public outcry, announced on X (formerly Twitter) that he would engage with transport operators in the coming week to address the issue. Beaune assured the public of efforts to “reassure and protect” travelers using public transit systems, emphasizing that operators would take more proactive measures to serve customers.
A day before Beaune’s announcement, Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire penned a letter on behalf of the City Hall, urging Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne to take decisive action against the bedbug infestation. Grégoire highlighted the urgency of implementing an action plan, particularly as France prepares to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024.
In a separate post on X, Grégoire emphasized the severity of the issue, asserting that “no one is safe.” He called for coordinated measures between health authorities and local communities to curb the spread of bedbugs, notorious for burrowing in furniture, clothing, and bedding, and feeding on blood primarily at night. Their rapid reproduction rate, with females laying up to seven eggs a day, poses a significant challenge in controlling infestations.
A July study by ANSES, the government agency responsible for assessing health risks, revealed that more than one in 10 French households experienced bedbug infestations between 2017 and 2022. The consequences of bedbug bites include rashes, allergic reactions, and blisters, prompting the French government to advise thorough cleaning practices and the engagement of pest control services.
The financial burden associated with extermination services, priced at around 866 euros ($917), disproportionately affects lower-income households. Deputy Mayor Grégoire noted the city’s support for these households in covering extermination costs and called on home insurance companies to include extermination expenses in their plans.
Sophie Marie Niang, a resident split between Paris and Cambridge, England, emphasized the economic disparities exacerbating the bedbug issue. Niang highlighted that private companies, responsible for bedbug extermination, set their own prices, making it challenging for those with limited financial means to combat infestations effectively.
Members of the National Assembly representing impoverished communities on the outskirts of Paris have long called for state-imposed limitations on extermination prices, but their pleas have gone unanswered. Niang underscored that the growing demand for fumigation has further marginalized those unable to afford the escalating prices.
Tourists staying in short-term vacation rentals, with potentially lax cleaning standards, might inadvertently contribute to the bedbug crisis. Niang suggested that these visitors could unknowingly transport bedbugs through wealthier, central sections of Paris, posing an additional challenge for the city as it prepares for the Summer Olympics in 2024.
The bedbug infestation has added to the mounting challenges facing Paris, contributing to a sense that “everything is going wrong” in the lead-up to the Games. Niang pointed out the recent unrest, including protests where Olympic worksites were torched following the police killing of Nahel Marzouk, a 17-year-old of North African descent, in June.
As the city grapples with both social and environmental challenges, the bedbug crisis underscores the need for comprehensive and immediate measures to ensure a smooth and pest-free experience for residents, visitors, and athletes during the highly anticipated Paris Olympics in 2024.