Evening Update Thursday 7 May 2020

French Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe and his ministers have announced further details of the deconfinement from 11 May.

In his opening remarks the Prime Minister said that deconfinement is going to be "a very gradual process" which will last at least several weeks.

The Minister of Health Olivier Véran revealed the map of France classifying regions into red or green. Four regions, all in the north-east of France, including the Ile-de-France, are in red, as well as the department of Mayotte.

The remainer of the country, including the Var and the Alpes Maritimes, is green. He said that if green regions remain green for the next three weeks, "we will be able to consider a new stage of deconfinement" at the beginning of June. As regards the red departments, he said that deconfinement is possible with certain restrictions but with no opening of colleges, parks or gardens.

The Minister emphasised that if you have symptoms of Covid-19 you must act immediately and not wait for it to pass. You should contact your doctor immediately,or if one is unavailable dial 15 in France, and your doctor will ask you to isolate yourself at home. He said that people you have been in contact with will then be tested and asked to isolate. He said that everyone should limit contact with those around them and "do not hesitate to wear a mask when going out". He said that as long as we don't have either a vaccine or collective immunity, we will have to respect social distancing measures. There will be no compulsory confinement for vulnerable people after May 11.

The Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer said that there will be four possible situations - either a child will be at school, studying, in extracurricular premises, or at home. He said that "87% to 90% of the municipalities have prepared for the start of the school year next week". He said that 80% to 85% of the 50,000 schools in France will open next week and just over a million students will return to their classes together with 130,000 teachers. A health protocol will be in force for schools and a special guide has been produced. Colleges will re-open from May 18 in the departments in the green zone.

The issue of travel was also addressed, by Christophe Castaner. To enforce the 100 km rule, a new certificate will be published on the Ministry of the Interior website.  Interregional travel will be "very severely limited" during the first period of deconfinement. TGV and Intercity trains will be gradually incresed, reaching a maximum 40% of the usual service level at the end of May. Edouard Philippe added that this rule may not apply for "compelling reasons", for example an "essential professional reason", assistance to a vulnerable parent or vulnerable child.

Borders remain closed except for cross-border workers.

Prefects may authorize access to beaches, lakes and nautical centers on request from the mayors.

As regards sports, only outdoor and individual sports will be authorized. Meetings must be limited to 10 people. However, this will be re-examined from June 2.

Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, said that all businesses will reopen on 11 May with the exception of cafes, bars and restaurants, for which the government will set the reopening date at the end of May. Shopping centers of more than 40,000 square meters can reopen in agreement with local prefects, except in the Ile-de-France.

Muriel Pénicaud, the Minister of Labor, said that the government is relying on each company to use telework, particularly in Ile-de-France, as well as "staggered hours". A number of guides for specific trades and sectors are available on the Ministry of Labour website.

In concluding remarks, Edouard Philippe said "In three weeks, we will know where we are, if we have managed to contain the epidemic." If the cases in intensive care "remain low, we can congratulate ourselves and move to a new phase, expanding our freedoms. If this is not the case, we will draw the consequences and adapt"

In other news, French Housing Minister Julien Denormanie has announced that the prohibition on the eviction of tenants in winter will be extended once again to sometime in July. He said that the exact date wasn't yet known. The winter prohibition would have ended on 31 March but has currently been extended to 31 May.

The Municipal Police in Cannes said this afternoon that they had issued 124 fines in 24 hours for violation of the confinement restrictions. They emphasised that people must remain confined until 11 May.

Free on-street parking in Vence has been extended until the end of June. Three of the towns car parks will also remain free - the Alhambra, Swimming Pool and La Rousse.

Madonna has said that she caught the coronavirus during her shows in Paris in late February and early March. In a post on Instagram she said that she and many other artists in the show were ill at the time and thought they had very bad flu. Madonna has since had an antibody test which confirms she has had the virus. She and the other  performers have now recovered.

 

BUSINESS

The Bank of England says that it expects the UK economy to shrink by 14% this year. The figure is based on the assumption that social distancing measures are gradually phased out between June and September. The bank forecasts that GDP will decline by 25% in the second quarter after declining by 3% in the first quarter. Growth next year is forecast to be 15%. GDP is not expected to get back to its pre-virus peak until the middle of next year. It also forecast that inflaion will go down to 0.5% next year. New Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said that he expected what he called "only limited scarring to the economy" because of support measures introduced by the government.

In the UK, its been announced that O2 and Virgin Media are to merge. The owners of the companies, Telefonica and Liberty Global, said that O2 would be valued at £12.7bn and Virgin Media at £18.7bn on a total enterprise value basis. The merger will create a major rival to BT.

Norway's central bank has cut interest rates to zero. The country's economy has been hit by the recent fall in oil prices as well as facing the economic impact of the pandemic. Interest rates have been reduced by 1.5% in the last two months but the Bank said that it didn't envisage introducing negative interest rates.

Air France KLM has reported an operating loss of 815 million euros for the first quarter. The company has so far received 7 billion euros of aid from the French state. The Dutch government has also committed to providing 2 to 4 billion euros. The airline said that demand could take several years to recover to previous levels. Meanwhile, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of airline operator IAG has said that the company is planning for "a meaningful return to service in July 2020 at the earliest, depending on the easing of lockdowns and travel restrictions around the world". IAG owns British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus . He added that the plans were "highly uncertain" and that he didn't expect paggenger demand to return to 2019 levels until 2023 at the earliest.


SPORT

Football... It's been announced that the German Bundesliga will resume behind closed doors on Saturday 16 May. The German Football Association said today that there will be strict health protocols requiring players to have Covid-19 testing. Matches will be played without spectators. There are nine matches remaining in the season. One of the games on the first day will be Schalke against Borussia Dortmund. The announcement means that the Bundesliga will be the first league in Europe to resume since the beginning of the pandemic.

Rugby... New Zealand Rugby has announced plans for a Super Rugby mini-series when the government reduces its Covid-19 alert level. The New Zealand government has said professional sport can resume behind closed doors when the alert level is changed from three to two. A decision on that is expected on Monday. Dates for the tournament, which would involve 5 teams and take place over a period of 10 weeks, will be announced once the reduction in alert level is confirmed.

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