PARIS (AP) French police raided the homes of health minister, former prime minister and other senior officials Thursday in an investigation into the government’s response to the global coronavirus pandemic.
Dawn searches, confirmed by the Ministry of Health, come as France fights a revived epidemic that has now filled one-third of the country’s intensive care units with COVID-19 patients and is back putting Europe to the test. President Emmanuel Macron announced the arrival schedule for the estimated 20 million people in the Paris region and eight other French metropolitan areas starting Friday night in a bid to slow the flow.
The investigation threatens to rekindle public frustration with a government that has been accused of lying to the public about mask reserves, underestimating testing needs and overestimating France’s ability to defeat the pandemic not once, but now twice.
About 1,000 protesting nurses, doctors and other public hospital staff marched through Paris on Thursday to demand more investment, higher staff and salaries after years of cost-cutting.
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The research will increase people’s distrust, said Dr. Ludovic Toro, who was among doctors, COVID-19 patients, prison staff, police officers and others who filed more than 90 legal complaints in the spring over the management of the pandemic government.
Ordered a special French court to prosecute government ministers an investigation as a result of their complaints.
Among those whose homes were searched Thursday include Health Minister Olivier Veran, his predecessor Agnes Buzyn, former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, current head of the country’s national health service Jerome Salomon and Sibeth Ndiaye, a former government spokeswoman. The Verans office was also inspected.
Dr. Toro still has no high-protection masks for his practice, nine months after the first case of the virus in France was confirmed. And he says he is seeing more patients with COVID-19 symptoms now than he did in the spring.
He and other doctors accuse the government of lying to the public earlier this year, when senior officials told public masks they were not needed even after they struggled to secure sufficient supplies for French hospitals amid increased global demand.
They should have said there were no masks. That was the real problem, he said. They refused to tell the truth.
The government has said its early instructions not to wear masks were based on the limited understanding of the new coronavirus at the time.
Asked about Thursday’s inquiries, incumbent Prime Minister Jean Castex would not comment on the investigation but said he had “full confidence in the health minister to do his job.
The government continues to send mixed messages about the virus. In addition to the curfew in several cities, the prime minister announced a nationwide ban on public weddings on Thursday, although the president encouraged the French people to travel as usual for the upcoming autumn school holidays.
The government announced it would deploy 12,000 police officers to enforce the new curfew and spend another 1 billion euros to help businesses hit hardest by the recent restrictions on the virus.
Our compatriots thought this health crisis was behind us, Castex said. But we can not live normally again as long as the virus is here.
France is registering nearly 180 cases of the virus per 100,000 people each week, with 22,591 new cases on Wednesday. It has reported one of the highest virus-related deaths in the world, with more than 33,000 lives lost.
Michel Euler and Catherine Gaschka contributed to this report.
Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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