Evening Update Thursday 18 March 2021

The Alpes-Maritimes is to go into 7 day a week lockdown for four weeks, starting this Friday evening at midnight. Trips outside the home to walk, take fresh air or play sport will be without time limit but must be accompanied by a certificate and be within 10km of your home. Non-essential businesses will be closed, except for those businesses selling books and music. Schools and colleges will remain open, with high schools becoming "half-gauge". Rules for places of worship will remain unchanged. Inter-regional travel will be prohibited except for compelling or professional reasons.

Other areas to go into 7 day a week lockdown for four weeks are the Ile-de-France where eight departments will be affected, Hauts-de-France which will involve five departments, the Eure and the Seine-Maritime.

The curfew still applies in the sixteen departments affected by the new rules. The curfew time will be changed from 6pm to 7pm throughout France from Saturday.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex made the announcement at a press conference this evening on the coronavirus situation. The Prime Minister said that the progression of the epedemic is accelerating markedly, with 30,000 cases yesterday and 35,000 today. He said that the British variant is the reason for what he said looks "more and more clearly" like a "third wave" of the virus. The British variant now accounts for 73% of new cases of the virus and the Brazilian and South African variants for 5%. Intensive care services are seeing people who are younger and in better health than in previous waves and they are staying longer in hospital.

In the Ile-de-France incidence rates are up by 23% in one week. He said that the weekend confinements in the Alpes-Maritimes and the Pas-de-Calais have had a real effect but not sufficient to "strongly break the dynamics of the epedemic".

The Prime Minister said that businesses must "push teleworking" in the coming weeks, with the goal of reaching 4 out of 5 days teleworking.

He said that the measures he has announced this evening are intended to apply "for at least the next four weeks" as this is the time required for them to produce a sufficient effect, "unless of course there are sufficient positive results". He added that the measures he is announcing could be extended to the remainder of France if necessary.

As regards the vaccination campaign, almost 45% of people over 75 have now received a first injection.

The vaccination campaign with the AstraZeneca vaccine will resume tomorrow afternoon. He repeated the government's taget of vaccinating at least 10 million people by mid-April, 20 million by mid-May and 30 million by mid-June.

Health Minister Olivier Veran mentioned that innovative antibody treatments can now be offered to people at risk of a severe form of Covid-19.

He said that medical evacuations in the Ile-de-France are becoming more and more complicated and not all patients are transferrable.

He added that the more we respect barrier gestures, the more we limit the risks.

Jean Castex concluded by saying that we are facing a third wave but the big difference with the previous waves is that we now have the prospect of vaccination.

Jean Castex is scheduled to be in Nice tomorrow. He is expected to hold discussions about the economic recovery plan during his visit.

The European Medicines Agency has said that the AstraZeneca vaccine is a "safe and effective vaccine". At a press conference early this evening Emer Cooke, executive director of the EMA, said that its benefits in protecting people at risk of Covid-19 "go well beyond its potential risks". The EMA said that there had been "specific and unusual events" and a link cannot be ruled out definitively between these cases and the vaccine but when a large population is vaccinated it is not uncommon for rare cases of pathologies to occur. Emer Cooke said that it is important to detect these incidents and to investigate quickly  to determine if they are coincidences. The EMA said that a warning should be added to the patient leaflet and information should be provided to healthcare professionals and the public so that timely action can be taken to mitigate risks. The agency said it would continue to study possible links between rare blood clots and the vaccine.

Monaco has announced the extension of current coronavirus measures until 2 April. The measures had been due to expire tomorrow night at midnight. The curfew between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. will therefore remain in force for two additional weeks. The same applies to the rules relating to consumption in catering establishments at lunchtime - access is reserved for residents, employees and schools of the Principality, reservations are required, the number of guests is limited to 6 people per table and service can only take place between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The compulsory use of teleworking in the private and public sectors remains in force.

The Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region has received an award from an EU project designed to foster entrepreneurial activity in Europe's regions. President of the PACA region, Renaud Muselier, said that it's an honour to receive the award and it "proves how innovative, dynamic and enterprising our region is".

A new electric shuttle bus service has been launched in Nice. The bus will run every 15 minutes along a 3.8km route from boulevards Victor Hugo and Dubouchage to the seaside and takes in Boulevard Gambetta, the old town and Place Massena. Journeys are free of charge and the shuttle will operate Monday to Saturday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm and on Sundays from 11 am to 5 pm. It's planned to extend operating hours after the curfew is lifted if there's sufficient demand.

One person is being questioned by authorities after a seizure of drugs in Toulon. 1.8 kg of cannabis and 80 g of cocaine were seized in an operation by the BAC anti-crime brigade of the National Police.

The Alpes-Maritimes Prefecture has reminded jobseekers that an online recruitment fair is taking place until 26 March. Vacancies are listed not only for the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var but also for many other areas of France. More details at https://salonenligne.pole-emploi.fr/candidat/accueil

A dolphin has been rescued in Toulon. The dolphin had found its way into the docks at the naval base and had become disorientated. Divers from the Maritime Gendarmerie escorted it safely out into the open sea.


BUSINESS

The Bank of England has kept interest rates unchanged at 0.1% and made no changes to its quantative easing programme. It said that since its last economic forecast, developments in global GDP growth have been "a little stronger than anticipated", and the substantial new US fiscal stimulus package should provide significant additional support. It was also somewhat more optimistic on unemployment numbers because of better economic conditions and the extension of government support schemes.

Meanwhile, Norway's central bank has left interest rates unchanged at zero per cent. However, it said that rates may rise from the second half of this year due to a better than expected global economy and progress being made in vaccinations.

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has decided not to impose price caps on full-fibre connections provided by BT's Openreach subsidiary. BT is planning to invest £12bn in fibre connectons. Ofcom said that Openreach’s fastest fibre services will continue to be free from pricing regulation, but customers can choose an entry level service using the existing copper network as an alternative. The entry level service price and those for lower speed services are being kept unchanged in real terms.

Grocery delivery business Ocado Retail, which is a joint venture between Ocado and Marks & Spencer, has announced that retail revenue grew by 40% in the 13 weeks to 28 February. Average order size was £147 and M&S products consistently accounted for over 25% of the average basket. Ocado Retail CEO Mel Smith said that "over the past year, large numbers of UK consumers have made a permanent shift to online grocery shopping".

 

SPORT

Rugby Union..Elliot Daly will replace the injured Henry Slade in the Six Nations match against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday. England's forward pack is unchanged for the game. Joe Marchant is named amongst the replacements. Meanwhile, Adam Beard will be playing for Wales in their match against France. Cory Hill drops to the replacements and there are no other changes for Wales. France have named an unchanged starting XV.

Football... French League 1 and League 2 clubs have said that they will not allow players to travel outside the EU and EEA because of the quarantine period they would have to undergo on their return to France. It's thought that qualifying matches for the Africa Cup of Nations will be particularly hit by the decision as a significant number of African internationals play for French League clubs.

In the last 16 of the Europa League tonight Arsenal play Olympiakos leading 3-1 from the first leg. Spurs hold a 2-0 advantage going into the away leg of their tie against Dinamo Zagreb. It’s 1-1 in the tie between AC Milan and Manchester United and Rangers are tied at 1-1 against Slavia Prague.

Cricket... Australia women's all-rounder Ellyse Perry has joined Birmingham Phoenix for the Hundred. Perry was named player of the decade by the International Cricket Council in December.

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