France opens probe on virus handling on complaints by 100s

PARIS (AP) — The Paris prosecutors office has opened four investigations based on hundreds of complaints against decision-makers and French institutions for their management of the COVID-19 epidemic during the first wave earlier this year.

The office said on Tuesday that the investigations “against X” — a formula that designates no single person or entity — were opened for allegedly failing to combat the virus, endangering lives and involuntarily killing and injuring.

A statement said the investigations group 253 of 328 complaints received by the prosecutors since March 24. The complaints were divided into four categories, most of them — 240 — concerning acts allegedly committed to the detriment of the general population. Other categories concern health workers, civil servants and those who fell ill or died.

Investigating magistrates will now carry out “complex investigations aimed at revealing eventual penal infractions” that may have been committed, the statement said.

A parallel investigation from the fallout of the management of the pandemic is also underway. In July, a special French court ordered probes of three current or former government ministers over their handling of the crisis following dozens of complaints. The cases under investigation target former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Health Minister Olivier Veran and his predecessor at the Health Ministry, Agnes Buzyn. If the cases go to trial on charges of “failing to fight a disaster,” they would risk up to two-year prison terms and fines if convicted.

President Emmanuel Macron and his government have in the past acknowledged a shortage of masks and other missteps in the early phase of the virus, which is now surging again.

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