Coronavirus: French prosecutors launch four probes into handling of COVID-19 pandemic

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By Alice Tidey
A COVID-19 patient is from another region to the Nouvel Hopital Civil of Strasbourg, Nov. 6, 2020.
A COVID-19 patient is from another region to the Nouvel Hopital Civil of Strasbourg, Nov. 6, 2020.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias

French prosecutors announced on Tuesday that they have launched four separate probes into the authorities' management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement comes five months after prosecutors began a widespread preliminary investigation after receiving hundreds of complaints.

The four probes were filed against unknown persons for willingly abstaining from fighting a threat, endangering the lives of others and involuntary manslaughter.

These procedures will examine 253 of the 328 complaints filed against decision-makers and public institutions since March 24.

They will look into the prejudice allegedly committed against the general population (240 complaints), health care workers (5 complaints), civil servants (4 complaints) and people sick or deceased (4 complaints).

As part of the preliminary investigation, police last month searched the homes of former prime minister Edouard Philippe, former health minister Agnes Buzyn, the head of the country's national health service Jerome Salomon, and former government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye.

The home and office of the current Health Minister, Olivier Véran, were also searched.

France is among the most heavily impacted countries in Europe — behind the United Kingdom and Italy — with nearly 41,000 deaths recorded since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 1.8 million people have also been infected with the deadly virus.

The government was sharply criticised at the beginning of the year and during the spring peak for the shortages of personal protection equipment and for contradictory messaging — the government initially said wearing face masks would not be effective in curbing the spread of the virus.

The country is currently under its second national lockdown following a spike in cases since September.