Agnes Buzyn, during her hearing before the Senate committee on the management of Covid-19 Wednesday September 23, 2020. -
Why did the authorities, alerted in January, only take measures in March in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic?
This is a key question that crosses the hearings of the Senate commission of inquiry on the management of the pandemic.
This Wednesday, Agnès Buzyn came to the Chamber to defend her record as a former Minister of Health.
Alert, communication, shortage of masks and tests ... She explained in detail and with specific dates of her actions as minister.
"The management of this crisis is not known," Agnès Buzyn slices before the Senate commission of inquiry into the management of Covid-19 in France.
This is one of the major questions that has come up during these hearings since their launch in July.
Why did the government, warned in January, wait until March to take drastic measures?
Agnès Buzyn, Minister of Health until February 16, was heard at length on Wednesday.
And, unsurprisingly, the question of the reactivity of the state apparatus occupied the discussions a lot.
"The state apparatus was set in motion from January 10"
To defend her record, the minister outlined all the actions carried out by her ministry, date by date.
"I hope thus to end this form of incompetence trial that I feel", begins the hematologist.
"The state apparatus was set in motion on January 10," Agnès Buzyn annoys.
I can't let it be said that we haven't done anything.
On January 25, she asked Public Health France for three scenarios on the epidemic.
She wants a conference of European health ministers.
“When I leave the ministry, there is no epidemic outside of China, France has 12 cases, we are at stage 1 of the epidemic,” she recalls.
The pandemic was declared by the WHO on March 11, almost a month after I left.
I think I took the necessary precautions to prepare the country.
A little later, she adds "overall, there was an underestimation of the risk by international experts", even speaking of "denial".
“For us, this question does not involve people, insists the co-rapporteur Bernard Jomier before the committee.
But the functioning of a state apparatus which did not respond to your conviction.
»Was Agnès Buzyn not heard?
Has the executive not taken the measure of the disaster?
Or has knowingly chosen to wait?
Agnès Buzyn assured that she had the confidence of the executive.
"The state apparatus could have other concerns," suggested Bernard Jomier
before the minister's hearing.
Like the municipal elections in March.
Reminder of the calendar: on February 14, Benjamin Griveaux ends his candidacy for municipal elections in Paris.
On February 16, Agnès Buzyn replaced him at short notice, in the midst of the coronavirus storm.
She will say later that she knew that these municipal elections were only a "masquerade".
“On February 29, this is the first cabinet meeting devoted to the Covid-19 epidemic,” continues Bernard Jomier.
However, to everyone's surprise, the Prime Minister activates 49.3 to pass the pension reform through the National Assembly without a vote.
That is to say, the reform which most divided French society!
Faced with a pandemic, we must form society and not divide.
After the long presentation of the former minister, the senators recalled that, despite the alerts of the minister, the health crisis revealed a dysfunction.
"I do not know if it is a lack of articulation between the minister and her services, if it is a bureaucratic burden, if it is diluted, but at the end of the day that does not work!
storms Senator Laurence Cohen.
When you leave, given the decisions you have made, why has it not been more effective?
It means that there is something to change.
Why this shortage of masks?
More specifically, the former minister was questioned at length about the management of masks, which carers were sorely lacking.
“From January, we knew that the epidemic was going to arrive in France, assures
On the other hand, we did not suspect its magnitude, we must not rewrite history.
But if there was suspicion, measures should have been taken to protect the caregivers.
"In particular by checking the stocks of masks.
Problem: at no time had the minister, like Marisol Touraine moreover, been informed of a deficit mask stock.
"There has been a trauma in the management of masks since the H1N1 crisis during which everyone spoke of mismanagement", analyzes Agnès Buzyn.
Which methodically recalls that the Director General of Health had asked Public Health France in April 2017 to audit the stocks of masks.
Which took 18 months and reveals that 600 million out of 700 million masks are non-compliant.
"Some were already ten years old," continues the minister.
We will have to wait until July 2019 for the order to be launched and October 2019 for it to be received.
The situation could therefore have been even more dramatic.
"The history of masks is that of a long succession of varied directives, with a slowness of implementation, without there having been any alert to the ministers concerned", summarizes Agnès Buzyn for complete its long timeline.
An explanation that is not enough.
“The first big order for a mask does not arrive until the end of February,” notes Bernard Jomier.
Between the first half of January and the end of February, an eternity has passed.
But these protective materials are produced in Wuhan, a city confined from mid-January and the whole world in times of pandemic was looking for these surgical masks.
“When I order the masks, it's too late,” she admits.
Lack of anticipation?
For the minister, there was no question in February of equipping the whole of France ... "The recommendation of the general public mask by the WHO dates from June 5," she recalls.
"There have been thefts by the thousands, other countries have experienced mask shortages," she defends herself a little later.
“There is someone who has not done his job!
»Retorts Senator René-Paul Savary.
Why the shortage of tests?
On the question of testing, same question.
"On January 10, France receives the virus identity card made in China, which allows a test to be carried out," recalls Bernard Jomier.
At the end of January, the Institut Pasteur finished its work.
We will have to wait until the end of February to start manufacturing the tests.
At this time, there is already a shortage of reagent.
Whereas for example the Germans had already manufactured it.
A calendar that Agnès Buzyn does not correct.
But defends himself by recalling that at the time “the WHO did not recommend a large-scale screening strategy.
On the other hand, she underlines that “the question of large-scale screening does not emerge until March because we discover that many cases are asymptomatic.
However, in the SARS and Mers model [two other coronaviruses], there were no asymptomatic cases.
"And the former minister to assure:" I think that few ministers have been so alert and in action in Europe.
"To see if his successor, Olivier Véran, heard this Thursday by the commission, will share this same analysis?
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