French and Riviera News Wednesday 17th March 2021

News 

Defence Council - The French government is this morning holding a Defence Council to discuss the health situation in the Hauts de France, Ile de France and the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur, three of the currently worst hit regions due to Covid.

AstraZeneca - Speaking to BFMTV on Tuesday evening French Prime Minister Jean Castex said that following the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccination in France, as well as several other European countries, he is prepared to receive the vaccination as soon as the green light is given in order to “reassure the French”. The European Medicines Agency has been examining the possible link to blood clots in patients who have received the vaccine. At this stage the EMA says that there is “no indication that this is the case” and will be giving its final conclusion tomorrow Thursday 18th March. The Prime Minister went on to say that the “enemy is not the French government, which is doing everything possible but the enemy is the virus”. He added that there was also a serious flaw in the distribution of the vaccines with “laboratories not able to meet the demand agreed”. Castex assured that those who have received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine are not in danger”.  For several weeks, the rate of injections of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had sharply accelerated, to become the majority. The suspension of the vaccine has nearly completely halted the vaccination campaign in France.

Study – A recent study has shown that 81% of French consider that the French government has badly managed the distribution of the vaccine in France and 61% are against another lockdown similar to that of November and December of last year.

Figures - The latest national figures for France show that 29,975 new Covid cases have been identified in the last 24 hours, 4,329 people are in intensive care and 320 deaths have been declared in the last 24 hours.

Covid self-testing kits given the green light - The green light for Covid self-testing kits has been given by France’s High Health Authority. Following the announcement, the president of the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region Renaud Muselier, confirmed that 150,000 kits have been ordered for the region. The tests can be used by people over the age of 15, giving results in "20 to 30 minutes”. The result is visualized as for a pregnancy test.

Monaco – 14 new cases of Covid have been identified in the Principality bringing the total number of residents affected to 2,135. Forty four people are currently hospitalised and 84 are being followed by the Home Monitoring Centre.

Weekend lockdown - The president of the Provence Alpes Cote D’Azur region, Renaud Muselier, has said that the weekend lockdown could be extended by the government. Speaking on France Bleu Azur he said that he believed the government could soon extend the measures to the whole region with the region soon being in lockdown at “weekends and maybe even during the week”.

In other news

Suicide - An 11-year-old sixth grade student at a high school in Vitry-sur-Seine in the Val-de-Marne has committed suicide a few hours after being summoned by his school for an “act of harassment” on another pupil. The suicide comes just a week after a third-year student 14-year-old Alisha a victim of school bullying, was found drowned in the Seine in Argenteuil (Val d’Oise) after being violently beaten by two school friends.

Drug trafficking in France minister takes stock - France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has said in an interview that French authorities are “regaining ground in the fight against drug trafficking”. After nine months as Interior minister Darmanin takes stock of his role saying that “despite lockdowns due to the health crisis, 2020 was marked by some very important drug seizures”. Figures show that settlement of accounts related to drug trafficking in France left 60 dead and 250 injured last year. The minister said that France has dismantled 450 dealing points, especially in the Paris region, Lille, Marseille and Lyon. In detail, 96 tonnes of cannabis, 13 tonnes of cocaine, 1.1 tonnes of heroin and 1.2 million ecstasy tablets were seized in 2020. 2020 also saw drug networks adapting to new ways of distribution via mail and orders on the Dark web due to travel restrictions.

Cannes Film Festival - The organisers of the Cannes Film Festival have announced that director Spike Lee will be the President of the Jury at this year's festival, which is taking place from 6 to 17 July. The offical selection and the composition of the jury are expected to be unveiled in early June.

The flag of La Francophonie - Some in the city of Grasse may be wondering what the new flag represents which has been displayed from local council buildings. Put up on Monday March 15th the flag, a circle, on a white background, divided into five colors, is the flag of La Francophonie created in 1987 in Quebec. Displayed during the French language week to mark the occasion, other festivities are planned in the city for later this year.

Ecology, building a straw house is possible - In Champeaux, in the Seine-et-Marne, a house has been built without stone or concrete, but with local straw. Local farmer Jean Poisson, farmer, who produces this raw material has used 10% of his straw harvest to build houses. The bales, sold for five euros each, are used in an ecological construction workshop, where straw panels are built to make walls. The straw walls are resistant to fire and time.

Business

Recent volatility in money markets is stoking speculation that the US Federal Reserve may be forced into adjusting its benchmark interest rate although few think that the central bank will act at this week’s policy meeting. Analysts say that they expect the Fed chairman Jerome Powell will say that the central bank has the tools to intervene in the bond market if it becomes disorderly and restrains the economic recovery but he won’t act this time around because of the amount of slack in the labour market. There are suggestions that US Treasuries and the dollar could jump if Mr Powell’s statement following the policy meeting is not “dovish enough”. The Fed is expected to say that the US economy will grow this year at the fastest rate in decades. The yield on 10-year notes fell back to 1.5281 percent late on Tuesday from 1.544 percent. The dollar has held on to small gains amid caution ahead of central bank meetings while oil prices fell back on concerns over demand.

Honda has announced a halt to production at the majority of its US and Canadian plants because of supply chain issues. The firm says that it’s been forced into the measure owing to a number of factors including the impact from Covid-19, congestion at various ports, the microchip shortage and severe winter weather over the past few weeks. Honda says that all of its US and Canadian plants will be affected in “some way”. The Japanese firm has declined to say how many vehicles will be affected by the shut-down but added that it was working to limit the damage. The firm typically produces around 30,000 vehicles a week in the US and Canada.

Nokia is to axe up to 10,000 jobs worldwide over the next to years in a cost cutting exercise. The Finnish telecoms firm has been playing catch-up on 5G and is also planning to invest in cloud computing and digital infrastructure research. It’s not clear where the job cuts will come but the firm is aiming to save around 600 million euros over the next two years. Nokia currently employs 90,000 staff worldwide and has cut thousands of jobs since 2015. The firm was once the biggest phone handset manufacturer in the world but it failed to anticipate the popularity of internet-enabled touch-screen smartphones and was knocked off its perch by rivals such as Apple and Samsung. Recently it’s been concentrating on telecoms equipment and has licensed its name for use on branded handsets.

Sport

Football - Manchester City have cruised into the quarter finals of the European Champions League following a 2-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach which gave them a 4-0 aggregate victory over the two legs of their round of 16 tie. Real Madrid are also into the last 8 after beating Atalanta 3-1 on the night to take the tie 4-1 on aggregate. There are two more round of 16 second leg Champions League ties tonight. Chelsea take a 1-0 advantage into their game against Athletico Madrid while Bayern Munich play Lazio leading 4-1 from the first leg.

In the English Championship last night Cardiff and Stoke drew 0-0. Derby and Brentford drew 2-2. Luton beat Coventry 2-0. Middlesbrough beat Preston 2-0. Watford were 4-1 winners at Rotherham and Bournemouth beat Swansea 3-0. The results mean that Watford’s push for automatic promotion has been boosted while Swansea lose ground and Bournemouth and Middlesbrough come back into the reckoning for a playoff place.

Cricket - England have thrashed India by 8 wickets in the third T20 international in Ahmedabad to take a 2-1 lead in the 5 match series. India batted first and were restricted to 156-6 from their 20 overs before some brutal hitting from Jos Buttler who made 83 not out saw England get to their target in 18.2 overs in a total of 158-2.

Rugby Union - The Ireland and Munster back row CJ Stander is to retire from all forms of the game at the end of the season. The 31-year-old South African born player has won 50 caps for Ireland and played 150 times for Munster. He’s also represented the British and Irish Lions. He said that he knew it was time to “hang up his boots”.

Racing - Rachael Blackmore has made history by becoming the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. The Irish rider guided the 11-10 favourite Honeysuckle home on the first day of the festival which is being held behind closed doors. Last year’s runner up Sharjah was second again with the 2020 winner Epatante third. The feature race today is the Queen Mother Champion Chase over a mile and 7 furlongs. Chacun pour Soi is the 4-5 odds on favourite with Nube Negra at 13-2 and Politologue and Put the Kettle on at 8s. The race is off at 4.05pm French time.

Weather

Sunshine and occasional showers this afternoon with light to moderate south easterly winds. Top temperature 16-17 degrees. Overnight lows of 8-9 degrees with partially cloudy skies.

Thursday and Friday - Sunshine and showers with highs of 12-15 degrees.

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