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French PM Castex target of legal complaint over COVID-19 management

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French Prime Minister Jean Castex. — AFP/Files

PARIS: A lawyer of a French association of COVID-19 victims said that his clients would file a legal complaint against Prime Minister Jean Castex for alleged mishandling of the pandemic.

The Coronavirus Victims France association, which has 200 members, accuses the government of "playing it by ear" in its response to the crisis, lawyer Fabrice de Vizio told AFP.

Castex took over from Edouard Philippe as prime minister in July when the worst of the epidemic so far was over in France. But the past weeks have seen a worrying surge in new cases.

The complaint will be filed with the Court of the Republic (CJR), the only court in France authorised to deal with cases against government ministers over alleged offences committed in office.

The court has already received more than 90 legal complaints against ministers.

A total of nine targeting Philippe as well as Health Minister Olivier Veran and his predecessor Agnes Buzyn have been declared valid by the court, which has begun investigating them for possible "failure to fight a disaster".

Di Vizio said the complaint against Castex was to highlight the association's view that shortcomings had continued after he took over as prime minister from Philippe on July 3.

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"What is striking since his arrival is that there is no strategy whatsoever of fighting the pandemic," he said, adding that the government was simply "guilt-tripping the population".

Di Vizio said key shortcomings were the absence of screening at airports during the month of July, slowness in introducing saliva tests and the government's decision to delegate the responsibility for anti-COVID measures to regional prefects.

"This country is being managed, not governed," he said.

Contacted by AFP, Castex's office had no comment on the allegations.

In June, Paris prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation for "involuntary manslaughter" and "endangering the lives of others" after receiving dozens of legal complaints over the handling of COVID, some targeting retirement homes.

Complaints have continued to flood in, with a total of 170 received by the capital's prosecutors by the end of August.


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