French and Riviera News Thursday 28th May 2020

Progressive end to lockdown phase 2 to be announced - France will find out today what phase 2 of the progressive end to lockdown will entail. Following the defence council meeting, today at 5pm Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will announce measures for the reopening of restaurants, cinemas and high schools as well as future holidays and the possible end of the current travel limit and the colour-coded map of France indicating where the coronavirus is in high circulation will be updated. As the number of intensive care patients continues to drop and now in the third week of “deconfinement”, many in France are hopeful that phase 2 will see more flexibility and perhaps a “green” designation for the entire country.

Partial unemployment - Meanwhile the French government has confirmed that it will reduce its partial activity coverage to support businesses from the coronavirus crisis. From June 1st, companies will have to pay 15% of this compensation which was put in place at the start of lockdown, in order to avoid mass redundancies. According to data from the French government, around 8.6 million employees were placed on partial unemployment, costing the state 24 billion euros between March and May. Not all sectors will be affected as those whose activity cannot restart on June 1st may continue to benefit from 100% support for their partial activity by the State. All sectors which cannot operate by an administrative decision will continue to profit from partial unemployment. In response, unions of the restaurant and hotel sector, have asked for this funding to be maintained "at least until 31 March 2021 and beyond if social distancing measures are maintained.

New study on coronavirus - A new study by French researchers, in partnership with the Pasteur Institute, has shown that mild cases of Covid-19 produce antibodies whose neutralising effect increases in the weeks following infection. Further research is however required to determine how long the neutralising effect lasts.

Professor Raoult answer to the decision to suspend the use of hydroxychloroquine - Following the suspension in France of the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, a decision made by the High Council of Public Health, professor Didier Raoult, head of the IHU in Marseille, who has controversially praised and used the treatment says “the data gathered does not make sense” adding “that there is no mention  of a hospital, doctor or those that were sick and treated”. In Marseille, 3,300 people followed professor Raoult's protocol, taking hydoxychloroquine. Among them, 18 people died after three days of treatment. "None died of the complications that are indicated in the study" said the professor. Didier Raoult carried out large scale PCR testing at the IHU from the start of the epidemic, even though the government recommended tests only for people considered to be at risk. At the height of the crisis, the IHU performed more than 4,000 tests per day. When asked if the lockdown had been beneficial Raoult answered "I don't know," "but it probably avoided panic and fear among the population."

Petition against new cycling paths in Nice - A petition launched against new cycling paths introduced in Nice has received more than 3,000 signatures. The city of Nice installed the new paths during the lockdown, notably on the Quai des Etats Unis and port area. The move has been criticised due to the fact that it restricts traffic to one lane “causing congestion in other parts of the city”, with “motorists having to make huge detours”.

Monaco - The Monaco government has put health measures in place for the reopening of beaches and swimming pools from June 2nd. Limits will be put in place to restrict the number of people present simultaneously on the beach. A distance of at least 1.5m must be maintained between people, except members of the same household. Wearing a mask is not compulsory, subject to strict respect for health distancing. Groupings are limited to a maximum of 5 people or one family. Enhanced cleaning and disinfection measures are also being put in place. More information is available at covid19.mc.

750 billion euros for EU countries - The European Commission has unveiled a plan to borrow on the market and then give the 750 billion euros to EU countries in grants and loans, to help them recover from their coronavirus crisis, giving an immediate boost to the euro. Italy and Spain, the worst hit by the pandemic are expected to receive as much as 313 billion euros in grants and loans. Of the 750 billion euros, two-thirds would be in grants financed by joint borrowing and one-third in loans.

Business

Asian shares have risen this morning and US stock futures are up on continued hopes about a global economic recovery despite concerns about a standoff between China and the United States over Hong Kong. Investors are becoming increasingly confident that the global economy will recover from the coronavirus pandemic but the biggest risk to equities is worsening Sino-US relations after the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday said that Hong Kong “no longer warranted special treatment under US law”. The S&P 500 has leapt by 36 percent since the global virus pandemic dragged it down on the 23rd March but there are some concerns that the rally may be overdone and is susceptible to a protracted pullback. The major fly in the ointment is Hong Kong with Mr Pompeo saying last night that “China has undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy so fundamentally that the territory no longer warrants special treatment” which would be a major blow to the city’s status as an international financial hub.

A court in Canada has ruled that the case of senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou can proceed. Ms Meng is fighting extradition to the United States and is to stand trial on charges linked to the alleged violation of US sanctions against Iran. The judge at British Columbia’s Supreme Court in Vancouver ruled on Wednesday that the case meets the threshold of double criminality which means that the charges would be crimes in both the US and Canada. The case has opened a deep rift between Canada and China. The defence says that Canada is, in effect being asked to “enforce US sanctions”. The United States has charged Ms Meng with fraud over a Huawei owned firm’s alleged dealings with Iran. A spokesman for Huawei said that the firm was “disappointed” by the ruling.

The billionaire investor Carl Icahn has unloaded his entire stake in the car rental firm Hertz at a “significant loss” just days after the firm filed for bankruptcy protection. Mr Icahn was the company’s largest shareholder holding a near 39 percent stake. Hertz has fallen victim to the coronavirus lockdown which has drastically curtailed travel and created major financial problems for the company. Mr Icahn said in a statement that he supported the firm’s decision to seek bankruptcy protection last Friday. He said that he would be following the firm’s plans for reorganisation closely and would look at how he could support the company in the future.

Sport

Football - English Premier League clubs have voted unanimously to resume contact training as 4 more players tested positive for coronavirus. A total of 1,008 players and staff have been tested for the virus in the latest series of tests. So far 12 people have tested positive across the league after more than 2,700 tests. Phase 2 of “project restart” will see players train as a group and engage in tackling while minimising  unnecessary close contact. Discussions are continuing about when the league can resume.

Formula 1 -The FIA has approved cost cutting measures following a vote at the World Motorsport Council. A statement said that cost cutting was necessary due to the need to reduce spending and safeguard the sport in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Formula 1 had already agreed to introduce a budget cap for 2021 but the new measures go further. The cuts will affect sporting, technical and financial regulations with costs reduced by 30 million dollars next year and by a further 15 million dollars in the period between 2022-2025.

Cricket - Plans to reduce the capacity at the Oval in London are being considered to allow some spectators to watch games later in the summer. The Oval has a capacity of 25,500 but Surrey County Cricket Club are looking at reducing it to 6,000 in order to respect social distancing. There has been no cricket played in England since the virus pandemic ended all live sport in March.

Rugby League - The sport will return in Australia later today despite continued fears over coronavirus. The league is enforcing tough restrictions on players and officials to minimise the risks but critics say that the very nature of the game is the perfect environment for the virus to spread. There have also been questions raised as to why teams from New Zealand are being allowed to enter Australia to take part in one of the country’s most popular sports.

Weather

Fine this morning, clouding over in the Alpes-Maritimes this afternoon with some scattered showers and thunderstorms by late afternoon. Moderate westerly winds and highs of 23-25 degrees. Overnight lows of 18 degrees on the coast and 14 degrees inland with scattered showers in the Alpes-Maritimes.

Friday and the start of the weekend - Sunshine and showers with highs of 20-24 degrees.

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