French prosecutors revealed that the country's former health minister was being formally investigated in relation to her alleged failed response to the coronavirus pandemic due to leaving her position in February 2020 to pursue the role of Paris mayor.
It was announced that a special government misconduct court will be responsible for deciding whether or not Agnes Buzyn will be prosecuted. The incident is one of the world's first cases where a minister is held legally accountable for their response to the pandemic.
Former French Health Minister Charged
The suspect could face a count of "failing to fight a disaster" as the 58-year-old welcomed the opportunity to explain her position during a Friday court hearing. At the time, Buzyn said she had to "establish the truth."
The suspect noted that she would not allow her French government's actions or her own to be discredited when she claims to have done so much for the country during the global health crisis. Buzyn was the health minister of France in May 2017 until a few weeks after the confirmation of the first coronavirus cases in the country, BBC reported.
Last year, the official lost the mayoral election and later joined the cabinet of World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in January 2021. France's Court of Justice of the Republic is a controversial institution due to giving judges and parliamentarians the authority to investigate and convict ministers for crimes related to their government work.
Buzyn is the first member of the administration of French President Emmanuel Macron to be charged in an investigation that has been in the run for seven months. The leader is set to face re-election in April. Macron's opposition has made the government's pandemic response the center of their campaign. The country has recorded more than 115,000 people died due to the coronavirus infection, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Failed Response to the Pandemic
In late January 2020, Buzyn, a hematologist, downplayed the threat of the coronavirus even after three cases of the infection were confirmed. She said that the possibility of the virus spreading in France was "very low" due to Wuhan's strict lockdown procedures.
Widespread criticism also condemned Buzyn for the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), especially face masks, which were intended for healthcare workers. The official previously claimed in January 2020 that the country had "tens of millions of masks in stock in case of an epidemic."
But when she lost the Paris mayoral elections, she claimed that she warned the Macron administration of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. "I think I was the first to see what was going on in China," the official said.
Buzyn said that when she left the ministry, she was in tears of the knowledge that the tsunami wave of infections was coming. She said that the coronavirus pandemic was the only thing on her mind at the time.
Thousands of complaints have been filed and sent to authorities regarding the alleged failed handling of the pandemic. The commission of requests of the CJR deemed about a dozen of the complaints admissible, EuroNews reported.