The Alpes-Maritimes Departmental Council has announced that it's placed a large order for protective masks. In a press release this afternoon the President of the Council said that a total of one million masks had been ordered, including 300,000 FFP2 masks. The new masks will be given to "hospital centers, departmental agents working in contact with vulnerable populations, as well as nursing homes, autonomous residences, Home Help Services, and establishments for people with disabilities". The council also announced that it had ordered 5,000 litres of recycled hydro-alcoholic gel. Meanwhile, Christophe Castaner, the French Minister of the Interior, has this afternoon asked the police to return their stocks of FFP2 masks so that they can be given to nursing staff. Police unions have described the measure as "a scandal" and say they cannot accept being "sacrificed" and not being able to protect themselves.
The French Secretary of State for Transport has said that all French citizens stranded abroad should be repatriated "within the next three or four days". Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said that out of about 130,000 people abroad, 90,000 had already returned to France. The French government has also launched a special website to enable French citizens abroad to offer accomodation to their fellow citizens who are stranded in the same country. Over 5,000 offers of accomodation have already been made. The website address is http://sosuntoit.fr/
The palace in Monaco has issued an update on the health of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, who is in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 last week. The palace says that specialists from the Princess Grace Hospital who have been treating the Prince have no concerns about the development of his health. Prince Albert continues to work from the office of his private apartments and remains in permanent contact with members of his cabinet, his government as well as with his closest collaborators. His Serene Highness reminds the people of Monaco of the importance of respecting confinement measures and limiting contact with others.
The hospital in Antibes-Juan-les-Pins received four new coronavirus patients yesterday, all of whom were admitted to intensive care. One came from a nursing home in Mougins, the other three from Cagnes-sur-Mer. However, the hospital also announced some more positive news today - four patients have left the hospital after recovering from the virus.
The Sainte-Musse Hospital in Toulon says that it's seeing a gradual rise in the number of serious cases arriving at the hospital. It says that it's a majority of men, between 65 and 70 years old, who are already frail because of conditions such as diabetes, or renal and cardiac problems. The hospital is carrying out an average of 200 tests every day for hospitalized patients in the Var, its staff and other establishments, with between 15 to 20 people testing positive every day. The laboratory hopes to be able to make 400 tests per day from next week after the installation of new equipment.
Following a request from a health worker's union yesterday, the Regional Health Agency has authorized several laboratories on the Riviera to carry out screening tests, including "drive-in" tests. The tests will be administered at a safe distance without people having to leave their cars.
The municipality of Cannes has today supplied the Simone Veil hospital with 1,000 additional FFP2 masks, as well as 1,000 overcoats and 1,000 protective caps purchased by the City of Cannes. More than 10,000 masks have now been supplied by Cannes City Hall to health professionals in the town.
The French National Federation of Markets has announced that it will challenge the government's recent decision to close certain markets to slow down the transmission of the coronavirus.
The French statistics agency, INSEE, has estimated that current economic activity has dropped by about 35% in France because of the confinement measures. The agency said that it was difficult to make forecasts at the moment, but estimated that if the confinement was to last one month, there could be a 3% decline in French GDP over a year and if it was to last two months there could be a fall of 6%.
Two brothers have received prison sentences for aggravated violence against the police and destroying property by fire. The two, aged 18 and 21, had set fire to a garbage can in Nice Nord and attacked authorities who intervened. The incident took place last weekend when the curfew was in place.
In other news, police are appealing for witnesses to a serious accident on the Col de Vence earlier this month. A fire engine with one person on board crashed about 2km from the summit at around 8.30am on Wednesday the 18th of March. They are particularly wanting to talk to two men in a white van who drove past the accident. If you can help, you're asked to call the police on 04.93.58.03.20.
Record new unemployment data has been released in the United States this afternoon. The initial jobless claims figure shows that 3.283 million people in the US filed for unemployment support in the week to March 21. The previous record high figure for jobless claims was just under 700,000 back in 1982.
The US Senate has passed a $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill that is the largest economic stimulus in US history. The vote was delayed by a last-minute row between Republican and Democratic senators over unemployment benefits. The plan includes direct payments of $1,200 to most American adults and aid to help small businesses pay workers.
A widey watched survey has shown a large fall in consumer confidence in Germany. The latest reading in the monthly GfK survey is 2.7, down from 8.3 in the last survey.
UK electronics and electrical retailer Dixons Carphone has reported a surge in online sales because of people working from home and being confined to home. Online sales rose by 72% in the three weeks to 21 March. However, the company said that overall, in its stores and online, there would be a large loss of sales until the end of its financial year in April.
Intu Properties which owns shopping centres including the Trafford Centre in Manchester and Lakeside in Essex has said that it has only received 29 per cent of the rent that's due from it's tenants this month. It said it was in discussions with its lenders about the possibility of covenant waivers and also intended to seek aid from the UK government's coronovirus support fund for businesses. Meanwhile, another British business property owner, British Land, which owns sites including Meadowhall in Sheffield has said that it will release some tenants from rent payments for the April to June quarter and will defer some other rent payments which would be due on the March quarter day.
Former UK Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has called for greater international cooperation to fight the coronavirus crisis. He wants to see the establishmen of a worldwide taskforce bringing together leaders of countries, health experts and the heads of international organisations. Mr Brown said that the current crisis is different from the financial crisis in that it is foremost a medical emergency.
In Formula 1 news, McLaren have announced that all team personnel who were in self-isolation in Melbourne have now safely returned to the UK. Sixteen employees spent two weeks in self-isolation after one tested positive in the lead up to the Australian Grand Prix. The race ended up being cancelled. A member of staff of tyre supplier Pirelli also contracted coronavirus in Melbourne but the company says he has since recovered and left Australia.
Leeds United's players, coaching staff and senior management have volunteered to take a wage deferral because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The club says that the move will ensure that all 272 full-time non-football staff can continue to be paid. Leeds expects the impact of the virus will cost them "several million pounds" each month. Meanwhile, Burnley have said that all matchday and non-matchday casual workers will be paid during the current football shutdown.
The president of the Turkish Boxing Federation has said that the International Olympic Committee was "irresponsible" in holding an event in London earlier this month. He said that two fighters and a coach who took part in the Tokyo 2020 qualifying event had since tested positive for coronavirus. The "Boxing Road to Tokyo" competition at the Copper Box was called off after three days because of the pandemic.