Macron in surprise visit to controversial French virus doctor
PARIS, France — President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday held a surprise meeting with the Marseille-based French medical professor who has caused controversy within the country’s scientific community for insisting the anti-malaria drug chloroquine can beat the coronavirus.
Professor Didier Raoult met Macron at his specialized infectious diseases hospital in Marseille, in a visit that was not announced in advance, the French presidency said.
The findings of Raoult, a prominent figure in France with shoulder-length blond hair and a grey beard, have divided opinion, with some hailing him as a savior but others deriding his work as fake.
French presidential officials have said that Macron intends to consult a broad spectrum of voices before giving his third address to the nation on the coronavirus epidemic on Monday.
Macron is expected to announce that a lockdown that began on March 17 will be further extended beyond April 15, and further measures amid a persistently grim daily death toll.
The president will from now until Monday “speak to a large number of public and private actors — French, European and international — on what is at stake concerning COVID-19 and prepare the decisions that will be announced on Monday,” the presidency said late Wednesday.
Raoult has claimed that a new study he has conducted confirms chloroquine’s “efficiency” at combatting the virus. He was expected to share the findings at the meeting with Macron who has yet to publicly share his opinion on the controversy.
Frederic Dabi, deputy director general of polling firm Ifop, said Macron was seeking to show he was consulting a broad body of opinion.
It is a “way of controlling the comments of Didier Raoult because now he cannot say no one ever listened to him” while also a “strong legitimization” of a figure who remains hugely controversial.
Raoult, whose theory has been taken up by US President Donald Trump, said his new study of 80 patients showed that four out of five of those treated with the drug had “favorable” outcomes.
He had earlier reported that after treating 24 patients for six days with hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin, the virus disappeared in all but a quarter of them.
The research has not yet been peer reviewed nor formally published in a medical journal.
France on Wednesday reported 541 more deaths from COVID-19 in hospital over the last 24 hours, bringing its total official toll from the coronavirus epidemic to 10,869.
Edited by JPV
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