Frances ex-health minister slams slow EU response to coronavirus crisis

PARIS — Agnès Buzyn faced three hours of harsh criticism in the French parliament — then she formulated some of her own.

Grilled by lawmakers in a high-profile parliamentary inquiry Tuesday, Frances former health minister defended her track record in managing the early stages of the coronavirus crisis in her country. She also pointed fingers at her European counterparts and EU institutions for what she said was a failure to fully grasp the seriousness of the crisis quickly enough.

“I cant let it be said that we didnt anticipate,” she said referring to the French governments early response, pushing back against lawmakers who questioned her on things ranging from low levels of stock for protective equipment to testing policy.

Going through a great number of details about her policies and decision-making, Buzyn said she tried to raise the alarm early on with other European ministers.

Some countries, Buzyn said, did not “see the point” and did not have “the same perception of the level of concern as [she] did,” she added.

The former health minister was asked for more details about how France had destroyed a large number of expired masks in 2018 but failed to reconstitute the national stocks.

Buzyn, a hematologist by training, was a much-awaited speaker at the National Assemblys inquiry committee, which will spend the next six months interviewing former health ministers, officials and scientists to look into the governments health crisis management, its level of preparedness and assess the impact of past and present policies.

Just as the pandemic was unfolding in February, Buzyn left the health ministry to replace French President Emmanuel Macrons party candidate for the Paris race after a sexting scandal, a choice for which she was then severely criticized.

In a bombshell report by Le Monde, she seemingly questioned a month later Macrons controversial decision to hold local elections just as the country was heading for a coronavirus-induced lockdown, referring to the campaign as “a farce.” She lost to the Socialist incumbent last week.

Lawmakers grilled her on her assessment of the situation at the time and on the measures she took to try to stop the spread of the virus.

Defending her own track record, Buzyn said it had been “her battle” to get her European counterparts to meet.

She said she had called European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides on January 24 only to be told that it was not Kyriakides competence to call in a ministerial meeting. She added that she later pressed the Croatian presidency of the Council to hold the meeting.

Kyriakides was the first to reach out to the health minister as soon as there were confirmed coronavirus cases in France on January 22, a Commission official said.

The Commissioner, in a press conference on January 29, said she was in continuous contact with the health ministers of France and Germany, which together had eight confirmed cases at the time, and the Croatian presidency. During this conference, Kyriakides also publicly called for a meeting.

When a videoconference took place on February 10, a Croatian spokesperson said it was the French, German and Italian health ministers, as well as Kyriakides, who pushed for the meeting.

Buzyn also commented on the World Health Organizations handling of the situation, questioning the time frame under which a global public health emergency was declared.

Asked by lawmakers about her relations with other countries, Buzyn also said one of the “particular difficulties” she had was the U.K. leaving the EU.

“It made life more difficult for us because I had a lot of contacRead More – Source