PARIS – The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened four investigations based on hundreds of complaints against French policymakers and institutions for their handling of the COVID-19 epidemic during the first wave earlier this year.
The office said Tuesday that the investigations “against X” – a phrase that does not refer to any person or entity – were opened for allegedly failing to tackle the virus, endangering lives and unintentionally killing and injuring.
A press release indicates that the investigations include 253 of the 328 complaints received by 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 include health workers, government officials, and those who fell ill or died.
The investigating magistrates will now conduct “complex investigations aimed at revealing possible criminal offenses” which could have been committed, the statement said.
A parallel investigation into the fallout from the management of the pandemic is also underway. In July, a French special court ordered investigations into three current and former government ministers into their handling of the crisis following dozens of complaints. The cases under investigation target former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Minister of Health Olivier Veran and his predecessor at the Ministry of Health, Agnès Buzyn. If the cases are tried for “not fighting a disaster,” they face up to two years in prison and fines if found guilty.
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 once again surging.