Evening Update Wednesday 24 March 2021

A lockdown may be put in place in three more French departments. Speaking after the Council of Ministers meeting this morning, government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said that "consultations" would take place this afternoon with a view to extending the confinement to the Rhone, Aube and Nievre departments. He reiterated that the government is aiming to vacciante 10 million people by mid-April, 20 million by mid-May and 30 million by mid-June. He said that all those who want a vaccination will be able to be vaccinated "by the end of the summer".

French Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin has confirmed that new large vaccination centres will be opened across the country within the next few days. The 38 so-called "vaccinodromes" will be managed by firefighters. The minister said that over 500,000 doses will be able to be administered at the new centres each week. He also indicated that a hundred mobile vaccination units would be used to reach people in remote areas.

Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne has been released from hospital after being treated for Covid-19. Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot remains hospitalised for surveillance after testing positive for the coronavirus. Meanwhile, reports say that Agnes Pannier-Runacher, the deputy minister for industry, is in isolation because of being in contact with a person who tested positive.

The Prefect of the Var has extended several health measures until April 13.  Garage sales, flea fairs, flea markets and second-hand goods sales will continue to be banned. Restaurants and drinking establishments are prohibited from making delivieries between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. and the consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited on public roads and in public spaces.

The Regional Health Agency has released details of the number of vaccinations carried out in the Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur Region. 10% of the population of the region have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Almost 1 in 2 people over the age of 75 have already received 1 dose of the vaccine. It said that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently experiencing the largest increases in deliveries. This week, in addition to its weekly allocation, the PACA region benefited from an additional allocation of more than 25,000 doses. By the beginning of April, Pfizer vaccine deliveries are expected to increase to 161,000 doses per week.

In other news, the RD 6204 has been cut between Fontan and St Dalmas because of a fall of rocks amounting to about fifteen tons. Xavier Pelletier, the Deputy Prefect in charge of the reconstruction of the valleys, has been visiting the area today. Geological studies are in progress and drones are being used by specialists to survey the area.  

The Maritime Prefecture has said that the operation to remove a wrecked yacht from the rocks at St Tropez has now been completed. Divers will shortly check for any impact on the seabed.

Work has begun to demolish a hamlet of houses at the Hameau de la Brague in Biot as part of local flood prevention measures. The Sophia Antipolis Urban Community bought the houses following the floods of October 2015 to carry out a project to improve flooding problems in the area around the Brague river.


BUSINESS

A new survey suggests that business activity in the Eurozone returned to growth in March for the first time in six months. The IHS Markit CIPS composite output index recorded a figure of 52.5, compared to 48.8 in February. A figure over 50 implies economic growth. In the UK, the index was 56.6, which is a seven month high.

Retailer John Lewis has said it will not reopen eight stores. Department stores in Aberdeen, Peterborough, Sheffield and York will remain closed when lockdown is eased, as will "At Home" shops in Ashford, Tunbridge Wells, Basingstoke and Chester. It said it expects 60% to 70% of John Lewis sales to be made online in the future.

UK inflation rose by 0.4% in the 12 months to February, down from 0.7% to January. Including owner occupiers’ housing costs, it rose by 0.7% in the 12 months to February, down from 0.9% to January. The Office for National Statistics said that falling prices for clothing, second-hand cars, and games, toys and hobbies resulted in the largest downward contributions to the change but these were partially offset by rising prices for motor fuels, and housing and household services.

 

SPORT

Football... Fifa has banned ex-president Sepp Blatter from football until 2028 as well as imposing a fine for violations of the organization's code of ethics. Former Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke received a similar ban and fine. The new bans start when their current ones end.

Manchester City have said that the club is going to install 5,620 rail seats at the Etihad Stadium. The seats can be folded away to create a 'safe standing' area with barriers. Standing at grounds in the top two tiers of English football is currently not allowed but the club said that the changes will mean it will be ready should the rules change.

In World Cup qualifying tonight, France play Ukraine, Belgium host Wales and Serbia play The Republic of Ireland.

Rugby Union... Scotland have made four changes for Friday's Six Nations game against France. Chris Harris, Ali Price, George Turner and Finn Russell all return. Huw Jones, Scott Steele and Dave Cherry all move to the bench, as does Adam Hastings. France have made five changes, including the replacement of injured Matthieu Jalibert with Romain Ntamack, who was the leading points scorer in last year's championship.

Lions chairman Jason Leonard has said that the team's board intends the tour of South Africa this summer to go ahead as planned. The possibility of switching the tour to Britain and Ireland or hosting it in Australia had been raised but Leonard confirmed that the plan is currently to go ahead with the original schedule.

Horse Racing... It's been announced that a major figure in British horse racing has died at the age of 75. Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum, who was the deputy ruler of Dubai, owned horses which won numerous top-flight races over the past 30 years.

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