Promising results from the use of the anti-malarial drug chloroquine by an infectious disease specialist in Marseille have prompted the leader of the Republican Party to call for its generalised use against coronavirus.

Bruno Retailleau said that there is no time to be lost in the fight against the epidemic, which has cost more than 600 lives in France. Standard research rules should be put to one side, he said. “What are we risking. People are dying anyway,” he added.

Didier Raoult’s test was on only 24 patients, but the results have been encouraging. The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, who has himself tested positive for the virus, is taking the drug, as are several patients at the Archet Hospital in Nice following permission from their relatives.

On Sunday France’s Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, said he had asked that the study led by Professor Raoult in Marseille be replicated in other hospitals in France, and if successful the drug would be used more generally in the country. However, he warned that: “The history of viral diseases is peopled with false good news, peopled with disappointments, reckless risk-taking too.”

He said that the results will be known in less than two weeks.

PHOTO: Olivier Véran urges caution