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Italy, France investigate the authorities for mishandling of coronavirus crisis

Italy, France investigate the authorities for mishandling of coronavirus crisis

Posted June. 12, 2020 07:48,   

Updated June. 12, 2020 07:48


While leaders and the health authorities have come under fire for their inadequate handling of the COVID-19 crisis in countries hit the hardest by the virus, Italy and France are seeing prime ministers, ministers and high ranking public health officials being investigated by the prosecution.

Italy’s prosecution will focus on finding out why lockdown was not imposed earlier in Bergamo and its neighboring cities. High raking officials of the central government including Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte have been harshly criticized for waiting until March 8 to designate these regions as “red zone,” 16 days after the first case was confirmed in the nation on February 21. The prime minister and ministers are testifiers as of today.

There are also signs that this is turning into the central and local governments passing the bomb. The governor and the health minister of Lombardy have already been investigated. They argue that the central government is responsible because a local government cannot impose lockdown unless the decision is made by the central government, while Prime Minister Conte says that lockdown could have been imposed earlier if Lombardy wanted it.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said Tuesday that it would investigate if any mistakes were made in the government’s response to the pandemic. Paris Public Prosecutor Remy Heitz said the probe had been opened at the request of civic groups that believe the government should be held accountable for many lives lost due to its alleged failure to prevent the spread of the virus.

The main aim of the investigation will be to identify major mistakes or delinquency in the handling of the crisis and determine if the authorities had committed “possible criminal offences.” However, unlike Italy, French President Emmanuel Macron and ministers will be exempt from the probe. The constitution of France provides immunity for a president, and he or she is not subject to a criminal prosecution.

Civic groups in other European countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany are criticizing their governments for their mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis. Some have communicated their intention to sue the governments for delinquency.

Youn-Jong Kim zozo@donga.com