A French doctor who suggested that a possible treatment for the new coronavirus should be tested in Africa has apologized in the wake of widespread backlash on social media triggered by his comments.
Jean-Paul Mira, the head of the intensive care unit at the Cochin hospital in Paris, made the racism-tinted remarks during an interview on the French television channel LCI while discussing coronavirus trials set to be launched in Europe and Australia to see if the BCG tuberculosis vaccine could be used to treat the virus.
“It may be provocative. Should we not do this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment or intensive care?” Mira said in the interview, adding, “We try things because we know that they are highly exposed and they don’t protect themselves.”
Camille Locht, research director at France’s national health institute, Inserm, agreed with Mira during the program and responded by saying, “You are right. And by the way, we are thinking of in parallel about a study in Africa using this same approach.”
Mira’s comments were met with swift backlash on social media.
“Africa isn’t a testing lab,” former Ivorian professional football player Didier Drogba wrote on Twitter, adding, “I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racist words.”
It is totally inconceivable we keep on cautioning this.
Africa isn’t a testing lab.
I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racists words.
Helps us save Africa with the current ongoing Covid 19 and flatten the curve.
Olivier Faure, of France’s Socialist Party, slammed the remarks and said in a tweet, “It’s not provocation, it’s just racism. Africa is not the laboratory of Europe. Africans are not rats!”
Le Club des avocats au Maroc, a Moroccan lawyers’ collective, said it was suing Mira for racial defamation.
Mira apologized in a statement published by his employer, the Paris network of hospitals, saying, “I want to present all my apologies to those who were hurt, shocked and felt insulted by the remarks that I clumsily expressed on LCI this week.”
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Mira further clarified and said, “Africa could be even more exposed to serious forms of harm because there will be so few masks and little confinement because of societal structure.”
“It seemed interesting to me that in addition to France and Australia, an African country could participate in this study which I had never heard of before hearing about it on the show,” he added.
The coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease known as COVID-19, jumped from wildlife to people in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has currently affected more than 200 countries across the globe. It has so far infected more than 1,288,000 people and killed over 70,000, according to a running count by worldometers.info.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.
Africa is currently the least-affected continent, with nearly 7,500 confirmed cases of infection and about 320 fatalities.