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Macron dubs French chloroquine medic ‘great scientist’

French President Emmanuel Macron has dubbed Professor Didier Raoult, pioneer of using chloroquine against Covid-19, a “great scientist” - as Pr. Raoult controversially claims the epidemic is slowing in Marseille.

Professor Raoult is a somewhat controversial microbiologist and director of the infectious diseases research unit l’Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire (IHU) Méditerranée Infection in Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône, ‎Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur).

He has championed the use of the drug choloquine, which is now one of several drugs being tested against Covid-19 as part of the European Discovery trials into Covid-19 drugs that are taking place across laboratories in France and Europe.

Mr Macron visited the centre late last week, which his entourage said was part of a wide array of scientific research consultations made ahead of the President’s national address on Monday April 13.

Read more: President Macron visits 'chloroquine-treatment' doctor

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Now, Mr Macron has said that Professor Raoult is “a great scientist”.

He told news source RFI: “I have much respect [for him]. I am convinced that he is a great scientist, and I am passionate about what he says, and what he has explained.”

Yet, Mr Macron said: “It is not for the President of the Republic to say whether ‘this treatment is good, or this one is not good’.

“My role, and that is what I have done by visiting Professor Raoult, is to ensure that what he is working on - and he really is one of the leading authorities on this - was within the scope of a proper clinical trial protocol.

“So that we can move quickly, to ensure - or at least consider - that the methods are simple but rigorous, if it [eventually] were to work or not work.”

He said: “It is not a question of belief, it is a question of science.”

Some have suggested that Professor Raoult may be one of the reasons that President Macron announced that schools would begin to re-open from May 11, as the microbiologist is said to have noted: “Children cannot significantly contribute to the circulation of the virus.”


Epidemic disappearing in Marseille?

Professor Raoult has himself claimed that his treatment is one of the reasons that Marseille has seen a lower death rate than the country-wide average. In his most recent video, posted online, Professor Raoult said that “for us [in Marseille], the epidemic is slowly disappearing”.

He said: “It is possible that in several weeks’ time, there will be no more cases [in Marseille].”

Professor Raoult said that the number of cases in Marseille was dropping each day - down from its maximum peak of 368, to around 60-80 currently. 

He added that many people had come to his centre to be tested, even though they had no symptoms, which he said had stopped the spread considerably.

But Philippe de Mester, director general of regional health authority l’Autorité Régionale de Santé (ARS) de Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, said that Professor Raoult’s claims were “completely premature”.

He told local news source France Bleu: “It is true that in the past few days we have recorded a drop in the spread of the epidemic, but not at all a regression.”

Asked about whether it was too early to predict the end of the epidemic, Mr de Mester said: “It is absolutely too early to make predictions about the end of the epidemic. Sadly, we know nothing...the epidemic is going to continue and will still take several weeks."

He warned Marseille residents to not become complacent, to avoid a possible second wave of contamination.

He said: “I may not have the notoriety of Professor Raoult, but we must take confinement measures very seriously. That is how we will get through this.”

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