The Wuhan virus research lab and the speculation over its military use

International — Investigation

The former head of British foreign intelligence agency MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, this week cited a scientific report suggesting the Covid-19 virus was man-made and that the pandemic was caused by its accidental leakage from a high-security laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a claim swiftly denied by the director of the site. The French-designed lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, inaugurated in 2017, was the result of a cooperation agreement signed between France and China for research into emerging diseases. In this second report into the history of the lab, Jacques Massey details how the agreement became a controversial issue within France’s government and intelligence agencies, notably because of the involvement of the Chinese military in scientific research, and the wider background of the accident-prone development of biological weapons.

France Covid-19 death toll above 29,000 and confirmed infections rise

France — Link

The official toll of deaths in France from the Covid-19 virus rose to more than 29,000 on Wednesday, when a rise in confirmed cases of infection was also recorded.

Minister hails 'good start' to France's virus-tracing app

France — Link

French digital affairs minister Cédric O claimed on Wednesday that the launch of a contact-tracing app that warns users if they have come into contact with a person who has tested positive for the Covid-19 virus got off to a 'very, very good start' after it was downloaded around 600,000 times since becoming available the previous afternoon.

The strange saga of how France helped build Wuhan's top-security virus lab

France — Investigation

The maximum-level biosafety laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the first of its kind to be built in China, and has been the centre of huge speculation since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic which originated in that city. The laboratory, which is equipped to handle Class 4 pathogens (P4) including dangerous viruses such as Ebola, was built with the help of French experts and under the guidance of French billionaire businessman Alain Mérieux, despite strong objections by health and defence officials in Paris. Since the laboratory's inauguration by prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve in 2017, however, France has had no supervisory role in the running of the facility and planned cooperation between French researchers and the laboratory has come to a grinding halt. Karl Laske and Jacques Massey report.

Doubts over legality of law to tackle France's serial lockdown breakers


To ensure that citizens complied with the Coronavirus lockdown introduced on March 17th 2020, the French government drew up legislation to make breaches of the rules a criminal offence. But lawyers and academics have raised concerns as to whether part of that legislation – which can lead to jail for anyone who breaches the rules more than three times in a month – is constitutional. France's top constitutional authority, the Conseil Constitutionnel or Constitutional Council, is due to rule on the issue in June. Meanwhile there have been more than 1,500 criminal cases involving repeat offenders and a number of people have already been jailed. Camille Polloni reports.

French minister faces tough talks on post-virus hospital revamp

France — Link

Some health workers already doubt that the reforms will live up to the “massive” investment promised by President Emmanuel Macron.

'Disease and disaster': the clichéd view that ex-colonial powers still have of Africa

Culture et idées — Interview

Souleymane Bachir Diagne, a philosopher from Senegal who is currently living and working in the United States, has spoken out about the current global health crisis and the inequalities and prejudice that it has revealed and the outdated thinking it has exposed about Africa. In an interview with Mediapart's Rachida El Azzouzi the academic discusses why so many observers still only discuss the continent through the prism of disease and disaster. Souleymane Bachir Diagne explains that despite many of them having a colonial past, developed countries of the North do not really know modern Africa and the progress it has made in recent decades. He calls on African countries and people to proclaim their achievements to the rest of the world, and talks of the need to 'decolonise' our minds.

France records a further 110 Covid-19 deaths

France — Link

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic rose to 28,132, and the number of confirmed cases increased by 418 to 143,845 on Wednesday, an increase of 0.3%, in line with the average rise per day seen since the end of a lockdown on May 11.

How Covid-19 spread through France while doctors' warnings were ignored

France — Investigation

The number of people infected by the Covid-19 virus in France had already reached epidemic proportions in February, weeks before the lockdown on public movement was introduced, this investigation by Mediapart reveals. Research now being carried out by doctors even suggests that the very first cases of the coronavirus appeared in the country in mid-November of last year. But the restrictive measures limiting testing for the virus hid the reality of its propagation, which has to date claimed more than 28,000 lives.

France Covid-19 toll: deaths rise, hospitalisations down

France — Link

Official figures released on Sunday announced 429 deaths from the Covid-19 virus over the previous 24 hours, mostly recorded in care homes, bringing the total number of recorded deaths in the country from the disease to 28,108, while hospitalisations of patients infected by the coronavirus continued to fall.

Tracing why France became so vulnerable to the Covid-19 epidemic

France — Link

Cuts and outsourcing left France scrambling for masks, tests, and even pain pills in its emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The virus crisis for Senegal's fishing industry

Portfolio — 14 photos

In Senegal, the West African former French colony, the fishing industry plays a major social and economic role. While it is a key provider of protein for the population, it is also a major sector for exports, employing around 600,000 people, representing 17% of the country’s labour force.    With the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the dive in air traffic, fish exports have plummeted, while emergency measures imposed to contain the spread of the virus, including a night-time curfew, add further to the crisis. This photo reportage in the port of Hann, one of Senegal’s biggest fish auction sites, situated on the outskirts of the capital Dakar, was led over two days in mid-April, shortly before the start of the Ramadan in this majority Muslim country. The port is normally bustling with activity and a constant toing and froing of ocean-going pirogues, the largest of which can spend weeks trawling the Atlantic. But already, the fishermen and wholesalers were facing a severe downturn in business, when even the most coveted fish, normally reserved for the Asian and European markets, were selling at knock-down prices on local markets.

France Covid-19 toll May 16th: hospitalisations and deaths fall

France — Link

Key indicators for the French health system's ability to cope with the Covid-19 virus epidemic have shown a downtrend for four to five weeks, with official figures of deaths from the infection over the 24 hours since Friday down by eight at 96,  and a continuing downward trend of hospitalisations – at 19,432 – and those in intensive care, at 2,132 – after respective peaks of more than 32,000 and over 7,000 in mid-April.

Death of French boy aged nine linked to Covid-19 virus

France — Link

The death from a heart attack in Marseille last week of a boy aged nine, who suffered an inflammatory condition with similarities to the blood vessel disorder known as Kawasaki disease, is suspected of having developed the symptoms from Covid-19 virus infection for which he tested positive to, as seen in more than 120 cases of young children in France, but also in other countries,

Sanofi vaccine row: a patent betrayal of the common good

International — Opinion

The chief executive of French pharma giant Sanofi sparked outrage this week when he declared that the US would be first in line for a vaccine his group was developing against the Covid-19 virus. In this op-ed article, Martine Orange argues the move by Sanofi reveals the immoral reality of the pharma business which, instead of serving the common good, has embarked on a profit-seeking commercial war over the coronavirus.