Bedbugs Are Becoming a Big Headache in Paris Ahead of Olympics

Transport minister is holding emergency meeting on Wednesday

(Bloomberg) — A rash of bedbug sightings across France is causing paranoia among travelers and becoming a sore spot for the government as Paris prepares to host the Olympics next year.

Videos that appear to show the bloodsucking insects crawling over seats on the Paris Metro and a high-speed train have gone viral on social media in the last few weeks, and some Metro passengers posted videos on TikTok vowing to stay standing.

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

Early in September, cinema chain UGC released a statement saying it was deploying dogs to detect bedbugs after “questions” from customers at its Bercy theater.

While it’s unclear whether infestations are up significantly, it has become a political issue in France, which is currently hosting the Rugby World Cup. Transport Minister Clement Beaune plans to hold an emergency meeting with public transportation operators on Wednesday to discuss how to tackle the issue. 

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the government’s working to find long-term solutions for detecting infestations and supporting those affected, while the Health Ministry recommends that travelers inspect hotel beds and suggested that people should be careful when purchasing used furniture or mattresses.

Bedbugs have also become a way for opposition politicians to needle officials.

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

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, while Channel Tunnel express-train operator Eurostar said it plans to introduce “preventative 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 6:00 a.m.”

A Eurostar spokesperson 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, more than one out of 10 homes in France was infested with bedbugs, according to the country’s national food, environment and health safety agency, at a total cost of €1.4 billion ($1.47 billion).

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