French officials said police have conducted early-morning searches of the homes of the current and former top government officials after a special French court ordered an investigation of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
France’s Health Ministry confirmed the dawn searches, which include the offices of the current health minister, Olivier Veran. Officials whose homes were searched include former prime minister Edouard Philippe, Veran, his predecessor, Agnes Buzyn, current Public Health Director Jerome Salomon, and former government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye.
The investigation was opened earlier this year after France’s Court of Justice received complaints from COVID-19 patients, doctors, police and others about the government's slow response to the pandemic, shortages of protective equipment, and a poor plan for testing.
When he announced the investigation earlier this year, Paris chief prosecutor Remy Heitz said the investigation would have limited scope and would focus on public officials. Heitz said possible offenses could include the alleged failure to implement workplace anti-virus protection, failure to provide face masks to reduce infection, and failure to roll out a workable testing plan.
The home searches came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron announced curfews in the Paris region and eight other French metropolitan areas to deal with the rising toll of new infections.
French opposition member of parliament Jean-Luc Reitzer, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 earlier this year, told French television he was shocked by the searches. “Do our citizens seriously believe that the shortages, which were real, were voluntary,” he said.