Why probe into ex-health minister's handling of Covid epidemic spells trouble for French government


The former French health minister Agnès Buzyn was placed under formal investigation on Friday September 10th for “putting the lives of others in danger” during the Covid-19 pandemic. Prosecutors also named her as an “assisted witness” - a half-way status between that of a witness and a potential suspect - in relation to allegations of “failing to fight a disaster”. The investigation into Buzyn, who stepped down as health minister in mid-February 2020 as the epidemic was gaining speed in the country, came after numerous legal complaints lodged by private individuals and groups. The news, which will once again shine a spotlight on the French government's initial handling of the epidemic, comes just months before President Emmanuel Macron is set to seek re-election in the 2022 presidential election. Sarah Brethes, Caroline Coq-Chodorge and Antton Rouget report.

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.

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.

New coronavirus evacuees land in France, suspect cases test negative

International — Link

A total of 254 people of different nationalities have arrived in France on the second French evacuation flight from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of  the deadly cooronavirus virus outbreak, with 36 people showing symptoms of infection, 16 of whom left for their respective countries while tests on the remainder finally proved negative.

Suspected coronavirus cases among French Wuhan evacuees cleared

International — Link

Two people showing coronavirus symptoms who were among 180 French nationals who arrived back in France on Friday after being evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the centre of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, have been cleared of infection and rejoined the other evacuees at an isolation camp near Marseille. 

France to evacuate nationals from coronavirus-hit Wuhan

International — Link

France will later this week begin airlifting its nationals from Wuhan, the locked-down Chinese city at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak where an estimated 500 French expatriates live, after reaching agreement for the evacuation with the Chinese authorities, health minister Agnès Buzyn has announced.