Police raided the homes and offices of France’s health minister, its former prime minister and its public health director yesterday as part of an investigation into multiple complaints that its leaders’ reaction to the Covid outbreak was slow and inadequate.
ews of the raids broke just hours after President Emmanuel Macron imposed a 9pm curfew on a third of the French population across nine cities, including Paris, in a bid to flatten the surging second wave of the epidemic.
Private groups are restricted to six people and private events, including weddings, are banned across France.
Besides health minister Olivier Veran and Jerome Salomon, public health director, Mr Veran’s predecessor Agnes Buzyn; Edouard Philippe, the former prime minister; and Sibeth Ndiaye, a former government spokesperson, were also targeted by the raids.
They came after the Law Court of the Republic launched a judicial investigation in July into whether leaders were guilty of a “lack of will to fight a disaster” following 90 separate complaints by doctors, local authorities and nursing homes.
The health ministry said the searches were conducted in a calm and “courteous” manner. The office of Mr Philippe, who stepped down as prime minister in July to reclaim his post as mayor of Le Havre, said he had “always said he is at the disposal of the justice system”.
Plaintiffs welcomed the raids. Arie Alimi, a lawyer for Inter-Urgences, an association representing emergency care workers and civil plaintiffs, said: “The reason for this complaint is to say that the government didn’t enable health workers to protect themselves from this disease that they knew was coming and the means required to do so.” He said some of the complaints could lead to criminal charges.
Doctors group C19 said it had pressed for charges due to “the incoherence of measures” and “the absence of application of WHO recommendations”.
However, many politicians found the timing of the raids inappropriate just as nine cities have been told they face 9pm to 6pm curfews starting tomorrow.
French public health officials have registered 30,621 cases over 24 hours and there were 219 new admissions to intensive care yesterday.
Jean-Christophe Lagarde of the centrist UDI party said: “We need to fight against the second wave and I’m not convinced we should waste time with this.”