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Controversial French prof: ‘I could have halved Covid death’

Controversial French infectious diseases specialist, Professor Didier Raoult, has said that “if people had listened to me, we would have had half the number of deaths from coronavirus”, in a new interview.

In an interview with local news site La Provence, the Marseille-based professor said that the country had “not cured people”, which had led to a higher level of mortality than necessary.

‘Half the number of deaths’

He claimed that the coronavirus crisis in France had been addressed through “fear”, rather than “medical management”.

He said: “Since the beginning, I have been saying that I am afraid of fear. Among these deaths, more than half were due, not to bad medical management or Covid, but the mess that we have made of health, because in practice we did not cure these people.”

He said that the French health authorities were not ready for the Covid-19 wave, and were “terrified”. He said: “Because you’re afraid of the risks, you can’t manage them anymore.

“If we had not had been so afraid, we would have had half the number of deaths; if people had listened to me, we would have had half the number of deaths.”

He said that he felt as though he had “not been heard”, and reminded people that there were “four times the number of deaths in Paris as there had been in Marseille”.

‘Figures not fantasy’

Professor Raoult also called for more State-funded pharmaceutical research in France, and said that the government’s scientific advisory council, Le Conseil Scientifique, had not made good enough decisions to manage the crisis.

He said: “If we had a real scientific council we would have done surveys in four or five places to measure the dynamics of the epidemic. We would have had real figures rather than fantasy.”

He said that thanks to his early testing he was one of the first to establish that the epidemic would form a “bell curve”.

Professor Raoult also said that management of the Covid-19 crisis had been derailed by research on the antiviral drug Remdesivir, which had also been put forward as a possible cure, ahead of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

He also criticised the government response to the controversial study on hydroxychloroquine in medical journal The Lancet, which led to France banning the use of the drug completely.

Read more: WHO halts trials of controversial drug hydroxychloroquine

Read more: France requests revision of controversial virus drug

Professor Raoult said: “The biggest error by the government was not its decisions on chloroquine. They were carried along in a story that they could not get out of; by emotion, and overreaction. [France] did everything opposite to what we should do in the treatment of infectious diseases.”

The professor is set to speak before the parliamentary commission investigating the country’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis today (Wednesday June 24).

Read more: Investigations into French handling of Covid-19 begin


Macron: Professor Raoult 'a great scientist’

Professor Raoult is based at the infection hospital l'Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire (IHU) Méditerranée Infection in Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur).

He was one of the early proponents of using chloroquine as a cure for Covid-19 - the illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-Cov-2 - and was one of the first infectious diseases specialists to trial the drug on Covid-19 patients.

He was visited in early April by President Emmanuel Macron, who said at the time that he was a “great scientist”, but warned that a visit from the President did not equate to endorsement.

A statement from the Presidential team said: “One visit does not legitimise a scientific protocol, it [simply] acts as a marker of the interest of the head of State into clinical trials, whether they appear promising or not.”.

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