Covid-19 deaths - France has registered 379 more deaths from Coronavirus in the past 24 hours bringing the total number of fatalities from the virus to nearly 87,000 since the start of the pandemic. 25,430 people are currently receiving hospital treatment for the virus with 3,544 people requiring mechanical ventilation. Numbers of new infections are rising with nearly 140,000 cases detected last week.
Vaccines - The French government has announced that it will now allow the AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to the over 65s. The development is a reversal of policy after the government at first said that there was a lack of data on the vaccine for older people. The French Health Minister OIivier Veran now says that the AstraZeneca vaccine can be administered to the 65 to 74 age group and that it is “safe and effective”.
Lockdown - The Prefect of the Alpes Maritimes has said that it’s too early to say whether weekend lockdowns will be a success. Speaking at a press conference on Monday afternoon, Bernard Gonzalez said that an evaluation on the success of the measures would not be available for between 8 to 15 days. 80 percent of all new cases showing up in the department are the British variant and the prefect said that a huge effort is being made to step up the vaccination programme. Health experts have also played down side-effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine as being “completely normal”. Mr Gonzalez said that police and gendarmes had carried out more than 21,500 spot checks over the weekend and had issued 1,212 fines for non-compliance with the regulations. He also defended the late publication of the ‘attestation derogatoire’ saying that putting the document together to take into account all the fresh measures had been “difficult”.
Infection rates - Covid-19 infection rates have fallen slightly in the Alpes Maritimes but authorities say that it’s too early to say whether curfew measures and the weekend lockdown have anything to do with the figures. Latest statistics show that infection rates across the department are running at 617 per 100,000 residents. More alarming is the infection rate in the 20 to 29 year age group which is running at 922 per 100,000 people. In the metropolitan Nice area the infection rate is 772 per 100,000, three times more than the national average. The data represents a slight fall in infection rates since the last snapshot taken on February 23rd. 12 patients suffering from the virus have been transferred from hospitals in the Alpes Maritimes to other parts of France.
Macron - President Macron has appealed to the public to “hold on” for “four to six weeks” before coronavirus restrictions start to be lifted. Speaking to young people attending a government training programme at Stains in Seine Saint Denis on Monday, Mr Macron said that the current laws would have to remain in force until vaccination programmes are more advanced. The French Prime Minister Jean Castex has said that all people over the age of 50 should have received a first shot of vaccine by “mid May”. The government will discuss the possible introduction of a new ‘health pass’ for those who have been inoculated against Covid-19 at cabinet tomorrow but has stressed that it will not be a ‘vaccination passport’.
School testing - New saliva tests for Covid-19 in the country’s schools will be carried out by health professionals and not teachers. The Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer says that the new tests will be used from “mid March” with a view to carrying out 300,000 diagnoses a week. The Minister said that 90 percent of parents are in favour of testing in schools. Teaching unions have said that introduction of the new system has been badly organised and that members are concerned that they’ll be left carrying the can. Mr Blanquer says that the tests will be carried out either by school nurses or personnel from private laboratories.
Guilty - The former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been found guilty of corruption and sentenced to three years in jail with two suspended in the so called “Bismuth Affair”. Trial judges in Paris said that the former President had forged a “corruption pact” with his lawyer and a senior magistrate adding that there was “serious evidence” of collaboration between the three men. The court heard evidence that Mr Sarkozy had instructed his lawyer Thierry Herzog to offer magistrate Gilbert Azibert a perk job in the south of France in return for information about a separate legal matter concerning him. It’s doubtful whether Mr Sarkozy will serve any jail time as the one year jail sentence can be served with conditions such as wearing an electronic bracelet or home confinement. Paul Bismuth was the name that the former President used while connecting to two phones to communicate with his lawyer. Mr Sarkozy is likely to appeal. He’s due in court again later this month in a separate case to answer charges of illegal fund raising during his 2012 election campaign.
Polygone - The Cagnes sur Mer commercial centre Polygone has announced that it will reopen from today despite a prefectoral order banning malls of more than 5,000 square meters from trading during the current health crisis in the Alpes Maritimes. Poyygone says that after studying the legal text of the decree, its lawyers have interpreted the closure order only applying to closed roof malls and not to those in the open air. The Primark and Printemps outlets at the shopping centre will remain closed however as they both cover more than 5,000 square meters. The prefecture says its taking legal advice.
Prison strain - French jails are overcrowded and violence is rife according to a new report from the Ministry of Justice. 63,802 prisoners were incarcerated on the 1st February, an increase of 1,129 on the previous month. The 188 jails in France are only designed to hold a total of 60,783 inmates with the current statistics putting capacity at 105 percent. In remand wings capacity has reached 122.7 percent. Numbers of prisoners forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor of cells has increased to 740 from 587 on the 1st July last year. 18,659 people are being held in custody pending sentencing, often for relatively minor crimes. Prisoners are also spending longer periods in their cells owing to the coronavirus pandemic resulting in increasing frustration and spiraling violence.
No tax - The French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said that he has no intention of taxing savings as the government attempts to kick start the economy. Speaking on Monday, Mr Le Maire said that he was spelling out “once and for all” that there will be no fresh taxes on savings. There have even been suggestions that the government is intending to reduce taxation on wealth and inheritance as it seeks ways to get money flowing through the economy. Estimates suggest that French savers have tucked away as much as 200 billion euros during the pandemic as more and more people worked from home and spent less on transport as well as eating out and entertainment. Some MP’s have however, called for a one off “Covid” tax to be imposed on the most affluent households as well as large firms such as supermarket giants who have done the best out of the health crisis.
Global markets have bounced back following last week’s falls as Treasuries calmed after a month-long sell off amid encouraging news on vaccines and stimulus. Investors appear to be betting on a swift economic recovery with cruise line firms and hotel operators leading the charge and airline stocks getting a boost. Shares in Johnson & Johnson picked up as the pharmaceutical giant started shipping its single-dose vaccine following its authorisation as the third approved Covid-19 jab in the United States last weekend. Meanwhile, President Biden got his first legislative victory as the House of Representatives passed his 1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus relief package which will now move to the Senate. Bond yields eased on Monday following a swift rise last week due to concerns over inflation. Analysts say that positive sentiment on vaccines and the economy is good news for corporate earnings and that’s helping to support markets.
US car safety regulators have started an investigation into fire risks on 1.9 million Toyota RAV4 vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that an initial evaluation comes after 11 fires were reported in RAV4 models made between 2013 and 2018. Reports say that some drivers experienced stalling prior to fires when the vehicle was in motion. The 12 volt battery has been identified as the area where a fire started in the majority of vehicles involved. Toyota says that it’s cooperating with the investigation.
Passengers at London Heathrow Airport are complaining about “inhumane” conditions with some made to queue for up to 7 hours at border control. Reports say that one woman was forced to feed her baby “on the floor” of the terminal building and that people with injuries and handicaps had been made to wait in line for “hours on end”. Some passengers say that they were offered no water while queuing and that chairs had not been provided for the elderly. A trade union representing border control workers says that there are inadequate staffing levels while Heathrow Airport said that the government needed to make sure that there were enough staff to cope with demand. The UK Home Office which is responsible for border control at airports said that some of the comments were “disingenuous” adding that trade unions had agreed to zonal working to protect “health and safety”. The ISU union disputes this and says that it never agreed that Home Office coronavirus working directives for border staff had “any benefits”. Meanwhile, officials are still trying to track a person who tested positive for the Brazil variant of the virus which may be more contagious than regular Covid-19. It’s thought the person may have entered the UK around 5 days before hotel quarantine measures were put in place. So far, 6 cases of the P1 variant which may be less treatable with vaccines, have shown up in the UK.
Football - There was one game in the English Premier League last night. Everton beat Southampton 1-0 to boost their chances of a top 4 finish. There’s one game tonight. Manchester City will go 15 points clear at the top of the table if they beat Wolves.
Rugby Union - The France coach has been backed by the country’s Rugby Federation despite leaving the squad bubble on the opening weekend of the 6 Nations. Fabien Galthie went to watch his son play in a regional match and later tested positive for coronavirus. Galthie was the first person in the France set-up to test positive for the virus. Since then, 11 players including the captain Charles Ollivon have tested positive. The match between France and Scotland last weekend had to be postponed because of the outbreak.
Four Ireland players picked up knocks in the win over Italy in Rome on Saturday and will be assessed by medical staff in Dublin. Jordan Lamour, Tadhg Furlong, Ronan Kelleher and Dave Kilcoyne will be able to train but will be under observation. 13 of the squad members have been released back to the provinces as its a 6 Nations furlough weekend.
Cricket - Marcus Trescothick has been named as England batting coach although he’s unlikely to have any influence over the 4th Test against India which starts on Thursday. The 45-year-old played 76 Tests and made 5,825 runs during his career. He’ll work across all of the England men’s teams from age-groups to the Lions and the senior side. Meanwhile, the pitch being used for the 4th Test is “unlikely” to behave any differently to the one used in the 3rd Test at Ahmedabad where England were between by 10 wickets inside 2 days last week. India lead the series 2-1.
Tennis - Novak Djokovic has equalled Roger Federer’s record of 310 weeks ranked as world number one. The 33-year-old is now guaranteed to break the record next week. Djokovic won his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in Melbourne last month. He says that all his focus from now on will be to win more slams.
Formula 1 - The sport has declined an offer from Bahrain to vaccinate all personnel attending pre-season testing and this year’s opening Grand Prix. Bahrain says that the offer is part of its vaccination programme which it’s extending to events held in the country. Formula 1 said that it had no plans to be vaccinated as a group ahead of the roll out of jabs though the health system in the UK. Teams are also expected to decline the offer.
Clear skies with light south easterly winds. Top temperature 17 degrees. Overnight lows of 7-9 degrees with clear skies.
Wednesday and Thursday - Mainly fine with highs of 14-16 degrees.