French police searched the homes of the former prime minister, the current and former health ministers and other top officials Thursday in an investigation of the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dawn searches, confirmed by the Health Ministry, come as France is fighting a resurgent epidemic that has filled a third of the country’s intensive care units with COVID-19 patients and is again putting Europe to the test. President Emmanuel Macron announced curfews on about 20 million people in the Paris region and eight other metropolitan areas starting Friday night to try to slow the tide.
The investigation threatens to rekindle public frustration with a government that’s been accused of lying to the public about mask stocks, underestimating testing needs and overestimating France’s ability to vanquish 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, staff and higher salaries after years of cost cuts.
The searches “will make the people’s mistrust grow,” said Dr. Ludovic Toro, who was among the doctors, COVID-19 patients, prison personnel, police officers and others who filed more than 90 legal complaints in the spring over the government’s management of the pandemic.
A special court has ordered an investigation over the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Among those whose homes were searched were former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe; Health Minister Olivier Veran; his predecessor, Agnes Buzyn; the head of the country’s national health service, Jerome Salomon; and Sibeth Ndiaye, a former government spokeswoman. Veran’s office was searched as well.
Salomon abruptly cancelled an early-morning live interview on the national BFM-TV because of “personal reasons,” according to the network.
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