Police raid homes of French health minister and other officials in coronavirus probe

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PARIS (REUTERS) – Police raided the homes and offices of France’s health minister, its public health director and former prime minister on Thursday (Oct 15) as part of a judicial investigation into the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

The probe was launched in July following dozens of complaints by doctors, local authorities and nursing homes. It aims to establish whether those in charge at the start of the outbreak showed a “lack of will to fight a disaster”.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said he maintained full confidence in Health Minister Olivier Veran and public health director Jerome Salomon.

The raids took place just hours after President Emmanuel Macron ordered a night curfew affecting almost a third of the French population, seeking to tackle a surging second wave of Covid-19 infections.

A health ministry official said the raids were conducted without any impediment.

BFM TV said the raids also targeted Veran’s predecessor Agnes Buzyn, former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and former government spokesman Sibeth Ndiaye.

“Everything was very courteous and with (the former prime minister’s) full co-operation,” said a spokesman for Philippe, who is now mayor of the port city of Le Havre.

A similar investigation is underway in Italy, where Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was questioned by prosecutors in June about his country’s handling of the outbreak.

Daily new infections are increasing in France at a record rate, putting a renewed strain on the hospital system.

The virus has killed more than 33,000 people to date in France, the ninth-highest tally in the world.

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