Former French health minister charged over handling of pandemic

Former French health minister Agnes Buzyn was charged Friday over her handling of the Covid-19 after investigators at a special court in Paris concluded there were grounds to prosecute her.

Buzyn has been charged with ‘endangering the lives of others’, the prosecutor of the Republic’s Court of Justice said, but not for a second possible offence of ‘failure to stop a disaster’.

The former doctor, who will be able to appeal the charge, arrived for a hearing  at the court on Friday morning saying she welcomed ‘an excellent opportunity for me to explain myself and to establish the truth.’

The 58-year-old added that she would not ‘let the action of the government be discredited, or my action as a minister, when we did so much to prepare our country for a global health crisis that is still ongoing.’

The charges are a blow for president Emmanuel Macron, whose handling of the health crisis will face scrutiny during election campaigning next year, but the court also immediately faced allegations of judicial overreach.

Former prime minister Edouard Philippe and current health minister Olivier Veran are also being investigated by magistrates at the court and have seen their offices searched.

The ruling will likely stir a debate about the blame and responsibility for the spread of Covid-19, which caught governments, many health experts and the World Health Organisation by surprise as it began spreading from China in early 2020.

The disease has killed more than 4.5 million people worldwide so far.

Meanwhile, North Macedonia’s health minister on Friday offered his resignation after an explosion and a fire ripped through a hospital treating coronavirus patients killing 14 people

‘The tragedy in Tetovo affected me very much… as a doctor and minister I presented, for ethical reasons, my resignation to prime minister Zoran Zaev,’ Venko Filipce told reporters in Skopje.

Deputy health minister Ilir Hasani and two hospital directors have already resigned over the blaze.

It was not yet known if the premier would accept the latest resignation.

Twelve patients and two visitors died in the blaze which broke out late on Wednesday at a temporary building joined to the main hospital in Tetovo, west of the capital Skopje.

The youngest victim was aged 29, the oldest 79.

North Macedonia has reported a rise in coronavirus infections recently, with the daily death toll reaching around 30.

It has recorded more than 6,100 fatalities in total since the start of the pandemic.

Covid hospitals in other countries have been hit by explosions followed by fires.

In Iraq, dozens of people were killed in fires that occurred after oxygen cylinders exploded in April and July.