So far in France, there are 2,606 deaths and 40,174 reported cases of COVID-19 (numbers of March 30th), and thousands of healthcare professionals are infected, and six doctors are already dead from the disease, anger is rising among staff and medical personnel against the government. The French Government, like governments across Europe, initially tried to downplay the disease and intentionally withheld vital information from the public. In return, hundreds of health-care professionals are filing a suit charging top officials of the government with criminal negligence.
The crisis exploded after former Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn spoke to Le Monde accusing Prime Minister Édouard Philippe of not calling off the first round of local elections on March 15 and claimed that she warned the general health directorate. On January 11, she sent a message to the president and on January 30, she warned Édouard Philippe that elections should be held/postponed for now.
Buzyn claimed that top French officials knew and hid the truth by not calling for a lock-down for COVID-19’s spread and as a result, they are responsible for exposing themselves and French people to danger.
She stated: “From the start, I was thinking of just one thing: the coronavirus. We should have stopped everything. We were playing a masquerade. The last weeks were a nightmare. Every time I went to a public meeting, I was terrified.” and added: “There will be thousands of deaths.”
As the number of death skyrocketed, growing anger and disappointment with the Macron government made healthcare professionals file a suit against Philippe, Buzyn and other top officials. Hundreds of doctors and health staff represented by Fabrica di Vizio filed a suit to the Court of Justice of the Republic which has the jurisdiction to investigated high crimes by government officials. Di Vizio claimed that they are suing based on Article 233, part 7 of the Criminal Code, which declares that anyone who voluntarily doesn’t take or launch measures that would allow, without risk for himself or third persons, for fighting a catastrophe that could threaten physical persons is punished with 2 years in jail and a 30,000 euro fine.
Di Vizio claimed that health staff discovered that the government’s assurances about protective equipment such as face masks were lies. He claimed: “The government told them at the end of February that the masks would arrive. At the beginning of March, when they understood that the masks were not coming, they started hearing from the government that masks were not really needed… This was simply an admission of impotence and a lie. The plain truth is that the government had stocked no supplies.”
Although French firms are producing face masks, the British government placed their orders first, so French has to wait. As a result of this, for the entire month of March, French healthcare professionals and staff did not receive any masks and many got sick and 6 doctors died.
The fight to hold government officials accountable for this fatal mistake of underestimating and downplaying the dangers of COVID-19 pandemic has big support in the working class, which can be seen in polls: %70 of the French people does not believe that the government is telling the truth and being transparent about the pandemic.