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HEALTH

Macron holds surprise meeting with French doctor behind chloroquine study

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.

Macron holds surprise meeting with French doctor behind chloroquine study
Emmanuel Macron, left, meets Didier Raoult, second left, in Marseille. Photo: AFP

Professor Didier Raoult met Macron at his specialised infectious diseases hospital in Marseille, in a visit that was not announced in advance, the French presidency said.

The meeting lasted three and a half hours and, unusually, media were allowed no access.

The findings of Raoult, a prominent figure in France, have divided opinion, with some hailing him as a saviour but others deriding his work as fake.

EXPLAINED: What is chloroquine and why do some French scientists back it as a coronavirus cure?

Professor Didier Raoult. Photo: AFP

The Elysee has 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.

A French presidential official insisted that the meeting did not represent any kind of “recognition” of the professor's methods ahead of his speech on Monday.

“The president wants to take into account all the tests and studies, including those of professor Raoult. It is not for him (Macron) to settle the debate, this must be done by scientists,” added the official.

Macron is set to announce that a lockdown that began on March 17th will be further extended beyond April 15th, and further measures amid a persistently grim daily death toll, but also signs of gradual improvement.

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 legitimisation” 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 “favourable” 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 Thursday reported its first fall in the number of patients in intensive care suffering from COVID-19 since the coronavirus epidemic began, with 82 fewer people in intensive care units compared with the day earlier.

The total combined death toll in hospitals and nursing homes now stands at 12,210.

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HEALTH

France’s monkeypox count rises to 277 as first woman contracts virus

France has detected 277 cases of monkeypox, health authorities said Tuesday, June 21st, including the first case in the country of a woman contracting the virus.

France's monkeypox count rises to 277 as first woman contracts virus

The case numbers have risen steeply since the last official figure of 183 cases five days earlier. But there have been no deaths in France attributed to monkeypox.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Until recently, the viral disease had generally been confined to Western and Central Africa but is now present in several continents, particularly Europe.

Among the latest cases recorded in France, “a first female case has been confirmed, the mode of transmission of which is currently being investigated, and all the others are men,” the French national public health agency said in a statement.

So far, the recent outbreak of monkeypox, which is currently affecting some 40 countries, has mainly affected men who have engaged in gay sex.

The World Health Organization is due to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to determine whether to classify the global monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern.

The virus usually clears up after two or three weeks.

Most of the cases identified in France have been found in Paris and its suburbs, though smaller outbreaks have been seen in several regions throughout the country, including Normandy in the north and the Cote d’Azur in the south.

The first monkeypox case in France was discovered on May 20, the same day the virus was detected in neighbouring Germany.

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