Monday , January 18 2021

Coronavirus: French police raid ministers’ homes in pandemic inquiry.

French police have raided the homes of senior government and health officials as part of an investigation into their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Minister Olivier Véran and the director of the national health agency, Jérôme Salomon, are among those whose properties were searched on Thursday.

It comes after a court launched an inquiry earlier this year into the government’s handling of the pandemic.

It has faced criticism over shortages of equipment and slow response times.

Prime Minister Jean Castex is also under investigation, French media report, as is his predecessor Edouard Philippe and Mr Véran’s predecessor Agnès Buzyn.

The court that launched the investigation in July hears cases of alleged wrongdoing by ministers and other government officials in the course of their duties.

The move comes shortly after President Emmanuel Macron announced a night-time curfew in Paris and eight other cities to try to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19 in the country.
The measure – which will apply from 21:00 to 06:00 – will come into effect from Saturday and last for at least four weeks. A public health emergency has also been declared.

What else is happening in Europe?
Across Europe, governments are introducing new restrictions to battle a second wave of infections.

On Wednesday, Germany announced that bars and restaurants in higher-risk areas must close early. The country recorded 6,638 new cases on Thursday – the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic.
A partial lockdown has also come into force in the Netherlands and cafes and restaurants are closing.

Earlier, Spain’s north-eastern region of Catalonia said bars and restaurants would close for 15 days from Thursday.

And the Czech Republic has shut schools and bars. It has the highest rate of infection in Europe over the past two weeks, at 581.3 cases per 100,000 people.

The Irish government announced a ban on household visits from Thursday night, but childcare and visits on compassionate grounds will still be allowed.

What are the new measures in France?
The night-time curfew was announced by President Macron on Wednesday, and it will apply to the capital Paris and its suburbs as well as Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Saint-Etienne, Rouen, Toulouse, Grenoble and Montpellier.

Affecting around 22 million people, it will be applied for four weeks to begin with and Mr Macron’s government will seek to extend it to six.
The measures will stop people visiting restaurants and private homes during the evening and night-time, Mr Macron explained.

Residents will need a valid reason to be outside their homes during the hours of curfew, the president said, adding that he understood that a curfew was a “hard” thing to ask people to do.

Essential trips will be permitted. Anyone found breaking the curfew will be fined €135 (£121).

Schools will remain open and people will still be able to travel between regions during the day.

Businesses that suffer financially due to the new measures will be eligible for state aid, Mr Macron said, adding that a second nationwide lockdown would be “disproportionate”.

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