French and Riviera News Wednesday 25th November 2020

News

Easing of lockdown in France - French President Emmanuel Macron has given a much-awaited televised speech on Tuesday evening defining the current “health situation” in France and the “next three phases in easing lockdown”. The President started by saying that data showed that Covid-19 cases were slowly declining reaching an average of 20,000 new daily cases. Since the start of the pandemic France has reported more than 2.2 million cases and more than 50,000 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths.

While the President thanked the French people for their efforts in respecting restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus and the work of carers and hospital staff, he insisted that the “coming weeks were of great importance” insisting that this “year’s festive season will be like no other” before adding that “We must continue our efforts, to avoid a third wave, a third lockdown”.

The first phase of easing of the current lockdown measures is to come into effect from Saturday 28th November with shops and services able to reopen including hairdressers and estate agencies. The “attestation” will still be required for circulating outdoors however the time is extended from 1 hour to 3 and the distance from 1km to 20. School outdoor activities will be able to resume along with religious services, albeit with a restricted number of people present. Macron emphasized that “staying at home as much as possible was still the priority encouraging employees to continue working from home as much as possible and when possible”.

The second phase planned for December the 15th and only applicable on the condition that the number of new cases of Covid-19 is below 5,000 and the number of intensive care patients less than 3,000, will see the end of lockdown and an introduction of a curfew from 9pm to 7am (excluding Christmas Eve and New Years Eve). People will be able to travel from one region to another to spend Christmas with the family in small groups, however the President did not mention international travel. From this date cinemas, theatres and museums will be able to reopen under strict health protocols.

Concerning ski resorts the President said that a decision is still to be made but that is seemed unlikely that the reopening would take place until the beginning of next year at which point, the third and final phase will be introduced on January 20th (again only if the health situation allows), seeing gyms, restaurants and bars reopen. High schools will also be able to "fully open, with all the students" and universities will follow two weeks later.

The President said that while everything is being done to be able to introduce large scale vaccination by the end of December, it will not be made obligatory.

Prime Minister press conference on Thursday - French Prime Minister Jean Castex is to hold a press conference tomorrow morning to give more detail on Emmanuel Macron's announcements concerning the relaxation of lockdown.

Complaint against Professor Didier Raoult dismissed by the prosecutor’s office in Marseille - The Marseille prosecutor's office has dismissed a complaint about Professor Didier Raoult's clinical trials. In a press release on Tuesday, the prosecutor’s office announced that two reports made in April of clinical studies carried out by the University Hospital of Marseille on hydroxychloroquine were dismissed.

To justify its decision, the prosecution explains that in the context of an epidemic caused by an emerging virus, and therefore little known, no drug had, at the time, yet been authorized to treat Covid-19. Authorized drugs could therefore regularly be used outside of being approved as part of the treatment of COVID-19. Consequently, the case was dismissed.

Elected officials under investigation - Two elected officials close to the Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi, are part of a preliminary investigation for embezzlement of public funds. Following a report from the regional chamber of accounts, a preliminary investigation relating in particular to the hiring of the two elected members of Nice has been opened. The report raises questions related to the hiring of the two elected members of Nice, Pierre-Paul Leonelli deputy mayor of Nice and Lauriano Azinheirinha, former deputy mayor, and today director general of services of the Nice Côte d'Azur Metropolis. Pierre-Paul Leonelli defended himself from any fictitious job and claimed to receive remuneration "well below the legally authorized maximum”.

Warning siren tests in Antibes - Authorities in Antibes are reminding locals that a new warning siren is being tested this Thursday morning. The new siren, installed on Chemin des Groules in La Brague, was set up as part of the fight against flooding in the area. The test is scheduled for 9am on Thursday.

Fisherman of Nice - Due to lockdown and faced with the closure of restaurants the fishermen of Nice are selling their fish from their boats on the port of Nice. There are only five professional fishermen left in Nice and, to survive the lockdown they are selling their fresh fish from 10 am until noon on the port of Nice, Quai de la Douane.

Discovery on dyslexia in Rennes - Two physicists from the University of Rennes have made a discovery which allows us to better understand why people are dyslexic and therefore to find new ways to help them. The study is published in the prestigious scientific journal The Royal Society. Dyslexia is a disorder which affects nearly 10% of the world's population, or nearly 700 million people: One of its main consequences being difficulties in reading and writing. Albert Le Floch and Guy Ropars conclude that they have understood a mechanism and developed a reading light system which they hope can now lead to "new approaches to the treatment of dyslexia".

John Kerry climate envoy - Former US Secretary of State John Kerry has been named climate envoy in US President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. Kerry had helped broker and sign the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change. Biden has sworn to reverse outgoing President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal. Kerry’s nomination is a sign the incoming administration in Washington intends to renew US commitment to fighting climate change. 

Business

Global stock markets have jumped after President Trump gave the green light for the formal transfer of power to Joe Biden to begin. Shares on Wall Street hit record highs and there have been big gains in Europe and Asia. Positive news about coronavirus vaccines has also boosted investor sentiment with hopes that economies may be able to return to normal in the spring of next year. Markets have also been boosted by the news that President-elect Biden will appoint the former chair of the US Federal Reserve Janet Yellen to be his new Treasury Secretary. Gains have been broad-based from plane makers to tourism, banks and entertainment firms. Oil prices have risen with Brent crude up 4 percent but gold is down as investors move away from safe haven assets.

The tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has become the world’s second richest man following a huge rise in his personal fortune. Mr Musk’s net worth has jumped by 7.2 billion dollars to 128 billion dollars after shares in his electric vehicle maker Tesla surged. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, only Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is richer than Mr Musk with the Microsoft founder Bill Gates slipping to third richest. Mr Musk’s personal fortune surged following the news that Tesla is to be added to the S&P 500 resulting in a fresh wave of buying of its shares with the firm’s market value now above 500 billion dollars. Tesla is already the world’s most valuable car firm despite producing a fraction of the vehicles of rivals like Toyota, Volkswagen and General Motors.

In the UK, the Finance Minister Rishi Sunak is to set out the government’s spending plans for the coming year later today. The Spending Review will include details on public sector pay, NHS funding and money for the devolved administrations. The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s speech is also set to lay bare the extent of the damage caused to the UK economy by the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Sunak is due to start making his statement in the House of Commons after Prime Minister’s Questions at around 1.30 French time. There have been reports that the Chancellor is to announce a freeze on all public sector pay with the exception of frontline NHS staff.

Sport

Rugby Union - Tributes have been paid to the French rugby legend Christophe Dominici who’s died at the age of 48. He won 67 caps for France and was best known for helping his side knock the favourites New Zealand out of the 1999 World Cup. Dominici also won 5 French Championships with Stade Francais before retiring in 2008. Recently he’d been a pundit on television and radio. Witnesses say that they saw him climb to the roof of a disused building in Paris before falling. An enquiry has been opened into his death. The French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said that he’d been an “artist” and that his sudden death is a shock.

Football - Chelsea are through to the last 16 of the European Champions League thanks to a 2-1 win at Rennes in Group E last night. In Group H Manchester United beat Istanbul 4-1 and Paris St Germain beat RB Leipzig 1-0. There’s more Champions League action tonight including Olympiakos against Manchester City in Group C and Liverpool against Atalanta in Group D.

In the English Championship last night Luton and Birmingham drew 1-1. QPR beat Rotherham 3-2. Norwich were 3-2 winners at Stoke. Wycome and Huddersfield drew 0-0. Barnsley lost 1-0 at home to Brentford. Blackburn were 3-0 winners at Preston and Bournemouth beat Nottingham Forest 2-0. Norwich top the table with 27 points from 13 games with Bournemouth second on 26 and Bristol City in third with 23 points and a game in hand.

Formula 1 - Sir Andy Murray has said that Lewis Hamilton deserves a knighthood for what he’s achieved as an athlete. Hamilton secured a record equaling 7th Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship last week and Murray says that it’s time that he was acknowledged. Reports say that the Mercedes Star will be awarded a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List. Murray, who was knighted in 2017 added that Hamilton was involved in a lot of good causes away from the track and that he thoroughly deserves to be honoured.

Weather

Hazy sunshine with light to moderate easterly winds. Top temperatures 16 degrees. Overnight lows of 8 degrees on the coast and 5 degrees inland with partially cloudy skies.

Thursday and Friday - Partially cloudy with highs of 15-17 degrees.

And finally

According to a recent study St Ives has been named the happiest place to live in Great Britain. The former fishing community in Cornwall topped the leaderboard - with other coastal and rural areas also scoring highly. Those living in St Ives were found to be happier than any other area with their surrounding nature, green spaces and friendly neighbours. Skipton in North Yorkshire took second place and Leamington Spa in Warwickshire came third. 

"As I was going to St Ives" is a traditional English-language nursery rhyme in the form of a riddle: 

As I was going to St. Ives,

I met a man with seven wives,

Each wife had seven sacks,

Each sack had seven cats,

Each cat had seven kits:

Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,

How many were there going to St. Ives?

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