French and Riviera News Tuesday 28th April 2020

Local News

Coronavirus - The number of deaths from coronavirus increased by 4 in the Alpes Maritimes and 7 in the Var on Monday 27th April. The total of deaths to date for both regions stands at 388, since the beginning of the epidemic on February 28th.

One new case was reported in the Principality on Monday bringing the total number of cases to 95.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is due to present the government's plans for the end of lockdown to the National Assembly today at 3pm. The proposals will then be put to a vote of MPs after a debate, which is expected to last about two and a half hours. 

Meanwhile, a group of deputies are calling for a gradual re-opening of restaurants. The French government have said that further information on the re-opening of the catering sector will be given at the end of May. However, a group of over 100 deputies are asking the government to allow restaurants to re-open in three phases, from May 15th to June 15th, depending on the level of coronavirus cases in their region.

Scientific Council warns that the decision to reopen schools is a “political decision” - Meanwhile the French Government’s Scientific Council has underlined that sending children back to school from May 11th is a "political decision", recalling that it proposed to wait until September. For teachers' unions, this political decision is "irresponsible, dangerous and impossible". The divergence displayed between the government and the scientists only reinforces the feeling of "insecurity" amongst teachers less than two weeks before the start of the May 11th school year. According to the first national education union, "the date of May 11th is largely premature in view of the current capacity to control health risk displayed by the ministry". The Scientific Council, which has taken note of the government's “political decision”, has drawn up a list of distancing rules which will have to be introduced in educational establishments, in particular ensuring that the class tables are spaced apart by a metre and that the pupils are only in contact with their classmates.

HSH Prince Albert confirms the end of lockdown - In a televised speech on Monday evening, HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, confirmed that the Principality will start the end of lockdown process as of 6am on May 4th. The Prince thanked the ongoing support of health personnel, volunteers, police, social services in the face of the coronavirus as well as the people of Monaco for respecting the strict lockdown which was introduced on March 17th. The Prince said that the stages of ending the lockdown which will be “long, demanding and difficult”, will be presented today Tuesday 28th April, in the government’s three-stage plan.  

Roads closed to motorists to ease public transport in Nice - The Mayor of Nice has announced that from May 11th, certain roads in the city will be closed to motorists and reserved for cyclists. The aim is to relieve public transport as people return to work, in order to respect the rules of social distancing in buses and trams. The measure would remain in place for one month. The streets concerned are to be confirmed.

Opéra Garnier Monte-Carlo - It's been announced that all concerts scheduled for the month of May at the Opéra Garnier Monte-Carlo have been canceled. Ticket holders are invited to contact the place where they purchased their tickets regarding refunds.

French Grand Prix officially cancelled - The decision has been made official, France’s Formula One Grand Prix which was to take place from June 26th to 28th at Le Castellet, in the Var, is cancelled. Both holding a closed-door race or postponement have been ruled out. For all ticket holders for the Grand Prix de France 2020, the reimbursement methods will be specified shortly on the website www.gpfrance.com.

Masks in Saint Tropez - Residents of St Tropez are each being provided with two reusable fabric masks. The masks will be distributed by post from next Monday, May 4th, but residents must first register online at  https://www.saint-tropez.fr/coronavirus/. People who are unable to complete the online form can fill out a paper form available from various shops, or get help by calling the town hall hotline on 04 94 55 90 00. The town of Saint-Tropez has already distributed almost 4,000 masks to vulnerable people, nursing staff, municipal officials and traders.

Holiday vouchers for frontline workers - The Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region has announced the distribution of holiday vouchers for people who worked in contact with the public during confinement, in order to help tourism professionals in the region. With a value of 500 euros, the “holiday checkbook” will be allocated to private sector employees domiciled in the region and benefiting from a family allowance not exceeding 700 euros. It is aimed at people who worked in direct contact with the public during the confinement period, such as delivery services, cashiers, caregivers and shop employees. The vouchers may be used for accommodation, catering and leisure services between the reopening of establishments and the end of the year. The vouchers must be used exclusively in the region. The estimated cost of the project is 10 million euros of which 4 million will be financed by the department and the region. Visit var has already launched an operation to support "the Var heroes". The objective is to place the region at the top of French destinations after confinement. According to the region, this project constitutes the largest campaign ever carried out in France for the promotion of the three destinations Provence, the Alpes and the Côte d´Azur.

Weather warning - In other news, Meteo France has this morning placed the Var and the Alpes Maritimes on a yellow weather warning for storms and heavy rain as well as possible flooding. The warning is in place until 2pm.

Seagulls - The town hall in Cannes has announced new measures to control the seagull population. Officers will use drones to locate and sterilize the eggs of an invasive species of seagull. The initial operations started on Monday and will continue until Thursday. This will be followed by a second round of location and sterilization planned for the 25-28 May.

Two police officers injured after being hit by a motorist - Two police officers on motorbikes have been hit by a motorist during a roadside check on Monday, in Colombes (Hauts-de-Seine). A 29-year-old Frenchman from the region has been arrested. Already known to the authorities, police are to determine if the act was deliberate. One of the two police officers is in a "serious condition" and has been placed in an artificial coma. His colleague, more slightly affected, was taken to a military hospital nearby.

Unemployment - The number of people seeking employment in France has risen by 7.1% in March. It's the biggest increase since 1996. The number of so-called Category B and C jobseekers - in other words those in "reduced activity" - fell by 3.1%.

Notre-Dame Cathedral - Repair work has restarted at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris after halting during France's coronavirus lockdown. President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to restore the building within five years. The global coronavirus pandemic forced officials to delay the planned start of reconstruction on 23rd March. But on Monday, workers returned to the site. 

First test to measure immunity to coronavirus - A French laboratory has developed the first test to measure immunity to coronavirus. Unlike other blood tests, it provides information on the effectiveness of the antibodies produced by a person who contracted Covid-19.  The test classifies the degrees of immunity into three categories: strong neutralizing, weak and non-neutralizing. This is a "fundamental step" as until now, many scientists and the World Health Organization (WHO) have wondered about the known effectiveness of the antibodies produced by a person who has contracted the virus. Once the green light is given by the High Authority for Health, it will be possible to be tested waiting two days for results.

Business

Asian shares and US stock futures have fallen this morning erasing earlier gains as a fresh dip in oil prices overshadowed optimism about the easing of coronavirus related restrictions around the world. Oil futures slumped again after the largest US crude exchange-traded fund said that it would sell all of its front-month stock contracts to avoid further losses as the price collapses. Some investors consider that the worst is now over for the global economy while a large proportion remain cautious given that a coronavirus vaccine is yet to be developed. All three major US stock averages advanced on Monday and are within 20% of their record closing highs of February. The S&P 500 is on track for its best month since 1987 mainly thanks to the trillions of dollars of stimulus pumped into the economy by the Trump administration and Federal Reserve.

A powerful Chinese regulator has raided the offices of Luckin Coffee as a probe into financial practices at the firm gathers pace. Luckin’s shares slumped earlier this month after it revealed that it had uncovered 310 million dollars in fake transactions. The firm had pledged to overtake Starbucks as China’s biggest coffee chain when it launched its shares in New York last year. Luckin admitted that it was being inspected by China’s State Administration for Market Regulation and said that it was actively cooperating with the investigation. Earlier in April, Luckin Coffee suspended its chief operating officer Jian Lu and staff reporting to him. It said that an investigation had found that fabricated sales from the second quarter of last year to the fourth quarter amounted to some 40 percent of its estimated annual sales.

The Aerospace giant Airbus is to furlough some 3,200 staff at its North Wales site after chief executive Guillaume Faury warned that the firm was “bleeding cash at an unprecedented rate”. Airbus said that around half of staff at its Broughton site would be placed on the UK government’s job retention scheme which pays 80% of wages. Earlier this month, Airbus said that it was cutting aircraft production by a third with the aviation industry expected to shrink significantly in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. Mr Faury has warned the firm’s 135,000 staff to brace for potentially deep job cuts and said that its survival was at stake without immediate action.

Sport

Football - Plans to resume the English Premier League season will be stepped up this week with Arsenal, Brighton and West Ham all opening their training grounds to allow players to work individually. The League says that it’s hopeful of a potential 8th of June restart with matches being completed by the end of July to comply with Uefa’s European competition plans. A meeting of top-flight clubs has been scheduled for Friday to discuss the restart. All games are expected to be held behind closed doors.

Formula 1 - The sport’s boss Chase Carey says that he plans to start the season in Austria in July after France became the latest country to postpone its race. Mr Carey says that he’s optimistic that the first race of the season will be the Austrian Grand Prix on the 5th of July. He said that between 15 and 18 races would be staged between July and December with the traditional finale maintained in Abu Dhabi. Early races are expected to take place without fans but its hoped that spectators will be allowed to attend events later in the year.

Cricket - The Pakistan batsman Umar Akmal has been banned for three years for failing to report illegal approaches. Akmal, who’s 29 was banned following a disciplinary hearing on Monday. He’d been charged with 2 breaches of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s anti-corruption code for failing to report two unrelated corrupt approaches.

Rugby Union - England’s Ellis Genge has announced plans to set up a new union to offer top players improved commercial and legal advice. Genge says that it’s time to “shake up the rugby scene” and said that he felt that players had been badly advised over measures taken by clubs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. He said that the new organisation would be independently funded to avoid conflicts of interest and would not have a governing body to answer to. The 25 year old stressed that he was not seeking to replace the Rugby Players’ Association which was set up in 1998 and has represented top flight players since then.

Weather

Sunshine and showers, some of which could be thundery and moderate south westerly winds. Top temperature 18 degrees. Overnight lows of 14 degrees on the coast and 11 degrees inland with clear skies.

Wednesday and Thursday - Mainly fine with highs of 21 degrees.

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