France recommends that those under 55 receive an alternative vaccine to that of AstraZeneca – France’s High Health Authority has recommended that people under 55 who are due for their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccination are offered an alternative. According to Jean-Daniel Lelièvre, an expert at HAS, combining doses of different vaccines does not pose a problem, on the contrary: "It gives an immune response which is greater than when the same vaccine is used twice." A recent study has shown that seven out of ten French people are prepared to have the vaccine against Covid but not AstraZeneca. In December just 40% of French people were willing to be vaccinated compared to 70% today.
Over ten million people in France have now received their first injection of a vaccine according to Prime Minister Jean Castex. The Prime Minister said that the number had been achieved one week ahead of schedule. The next target, which had previously been announced by the government, is 20 million first doses by mid-May followed by 30 million in mid-June.
Covid - The number of patients in intensive care in France has dropped slightly but remains very high, with 5,705 patients currently in intensive care. The total number of people in hospital is also down slightly with 30,555 patients currently hospitalized, compared to 30,904 the day before. A total of 2,156 people have been hospitalized in the past 24 hours. And in 24 hours, 345 new deaths have been declared in hospitals. A total of 98,065 people have died since the start of the epidemic in France (including 71,972 in hospitals). The number of cases recorded on Thursday stands at 84,999, including a catch-up of the figures from the day before.
Lockdown measures - French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal has said that there are the "first encouraging signs" from the 16 departments, including the Alpes-Maritimes, which were the first to go into lockdown. Attal said that the measures "seem to be working" but didn't give further details. Speaking after the Health Defence Council and Council of Ministers meeting on Thursday he said that no new measures have been decided upon.
Restaurant owner surprised by police – Meanwhile a restaurant owner in Cannes has been fined after serving people in his establishment. On Thursday afternoon police surprised the gathering as each guest was issued a 135 euro fine for violating current health restrictions. The owner had tried to explain that he was welcoming friends and family and not the general public.
In other news
HIV vaccine trials - A vaccine which is still in the first phase of clinical trials has showed record effectiveness against HIV. New trials are to be held at the end of 2021, with the use of messenger RNA technology, used in particular for the Moderna vaccine against Covid. During the first trials of the 24 people who received the vaccine, 23 developed so-called neutralizing antibodies.
Government to offer aid to agriculture following recent spell of frost - France’s agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie has announced the deployment of the “agricultural calamity regime”, due to frosts which have in recent days, affected many French crops. The minister warned that "the losses are important” and promised the full mobilization of insurers and bankers to support those affected. The wine industry in France has said that the recent episode of frost has affected French vineyards “ending the production harvest for the year”. The frost, which began four days ago in certain regions of France is estimated to have "affected nearly 80% of French vineyards".
French President announces the closure of ENA - French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the closure of France’s Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA), the training ground for French leaders founded by Charles de Gaulle at the end of World War II. The graduate school had increasingly become a symbol of elitism and entrenched privilege, churning out presidents, premiers and captains of industry destined to fill France’s top ranks. Macron, who graduated from the school in 2004, told senior civil servants he was going to "abolish the ENA" and replace it with a new institution called the "Public Service Institute". He said the new school would continue to train graduates for senior positions in the public sector, but with a mission to introduce more diversity.
Climate - The Principality of Monaco has taken part in a meeting of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action. Launched two years ago, the coalition brings together the Finance Ministers of sixty developed and developing states to discuss and collaborate on economic planning taking into account the challenges of climate change. Collectively the group of countries represents around 39% of greenhouse gas emissions and 63% of global GDP.
The UK government has announced plans to safely reopen international travel, but says it cannot yet confirm whether foreign holidays can resume on 17th May. A traffic light system will be used to categorise countries based on risk, and travellers will need to pay for tests when departing and returning to the UK. The plans have been met with widespread frustration by the travel industry.
The Duke of Cambridge has urged banks to "invest in nature" to help fight global climate change. Speaking at an IMF and World Bank meeting, Prince William said protecting nature continued to play only a small part in combating global warming. He said investing in reforestation and sustainable agriculture were "cost effective" ways of tackling the issue.
The US has blacklisted seven Chinese groups which it accuses of building supercomputers to help its military. In the first move by the Biden administration to make it harder for China to obtain US technology three companies and four branches of China's National Supercomputing Center were added to the US blacklist on Thursday. The move bars American companies from exporting technology to the groups without proper approval.
Football – Arsenal's Europa League ambitions were left hanging in the balance after an 1-1 draw last night against Slavia Prague.
In the English Premier League this weekend, this evening Fulham play Wolves. On Saturday Manchester City face Leeds, Liverpool play Aston Villa and Crystal Palace play Chelsea. On Sunday, Burnley play Newcastle, West Ham face Leicester, Tottenham play Manchester United and Sheffield United play Arsenal. There are two games on Monday West Brom against Southampton and Brighton against Everton.
Cricket - The richest franchise tournament in world cricket is back today as the Indian Premier League kicks off its 14th edition running until the final on May 30th.
Formula One - Nico Hulkenberg has joined Aston Martin as their reserve and development driver. The German drove for the team three times last year, when it was known as Racing Point, when drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll contracted Covid-19. The 33-year-old was a race driver for the outfit from 2012 to 2016, when it was called Force India.
Clear skies this morning, clouding over this afternoon with rain expected in the Var by early evening. Highs of 15 degrees in Monaco, Menton and Nice with a gentle breeze, going down to 8 degrees this evening.
The outlook for Saturday - Cloudy with possible outbreaks of rain. Rain forecast for Sunday across the region with highs of 17 degrees.