A Paris court on Thursday handed a one-year prison sentence and a fine of €10,000 to a man caught selling face masks on the street, defying the government's order to reserve all masks for medical workers facing shortfalls because of the coronavirus outbreak.

It was the first conviction in the capital after several people were charged when police found illicit stocks of masks in recent weeks, a legal source told AFP.

Officers found about 20,000 of the highly-protective FFP1 and FFP2 masks at the man's home in the 19th district of Paris after an investigation was launched last weekend.

The source did not specify how much the man was charging for the masks.

France is racing to ramp up production of face masks for health workers, and Health Minister Olivier Veran said Wednesday that the government had ordered 1.5 billion masks, mainly from Chinese producers.

Yet fierce demand from countries worldwide means France will probably not start receiving the bulk of those orders for several weeks.

French authorities estimate that health workers alone need 40 million masks per week, yet domestic production is set to rise to just 10 million a week over the next month, a threefold increase from before the crisis.

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