July 3 (UPI) -- A French court announced Friday would open an inquiry into the way his government handled the COVID-19 pandemic, hours after one of the officials named in the investigation announced his resignation.
Édouard Philippe was one of three government officials named by the Law Court of the Republic as subjects of the court's investigation into how the pandemic was addressed.
Senior public prosecutor François Molin said the court is also investigating Agnès Buzyn, who stepped down as health minister in February, and her successor Olivier Véran.
Phillipe's popularity with the French public surged amid the pandemic, but the government also faced criticism from unions and doctors over its handling of the virus' spread, including criticism regarding shortages of protective equipment.
Phillipe resigned as prime minister of France Friday after three years leading President Emmanuel Macron's government.
Macron has named Jean Castex, who has served as mayor of Prades in the Pyrenees and is described as having center-right leanings, to lead a new team of ministers as Macron reorganizes the government to adapt to shifting political opinion and an economic crisis brought on by the novel coronavirus.
Castex, 55, was nicknamed "Mr. Deconfinement" after being tapped by Philippe to devise a strategy for lifting France's national lockdown.
France's government differs slightly from other parliamentary governments in that the president is elected by popular vote, but appoints the prime minister and cabinet -- and it's not uncommon for the French president to replace the prime minister at some point during a five-year term in office.
But Macron, who was elected in 2017 and promised a "new path" and changes to the cabinet in media interviews this week faces the challenge of leading the country amid an economic crisis caused by the novel coronavirus as well as a shift in public opinion evidenced by Sunday election results, when the Green Party took key wins in cities throughout the country.
Philippe, however, was popular with the French public -- 60 percent of whom said in a poll this week that he should have stayed in his post -- and is one of few French public officials to have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic with enhanced credibility.