The French Prime Minister's Office has announced that increased controls will be carried out in the departments subject to lockdown measures to ensure compliance with restrictions. The intensified controls will be carried out at railway stations, airports and road tolls as from this afternoon. The Prime Minister held a meeting with the Interior Minister this morning at which control measures were discussed.
French Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has announced stricter health protocols for schools in the departments which are in lockdown. He said that classes would be closed as soon as there was a first Covid-19 case in a class. The measure will apply to all school levels. He said that school canteens are "a weak link" and can be closed on a case by case basis. New data released today shows that 148 French schools are currently closed because of Covid-19. In schools which are open, 3,256 classes are closed, which is up from just over 2,000 classes a week ago.
The mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, has responded to criticisms made by Health Minister Olivier Veran regarding the vaccination programme in the town. In his press conference last night, the health minister said that he regrets that the mayor has decided to vaccinate people aged 50 and over without comorbidities without telling the Regional Health Agency or the Prefect. He said that he was sure that there were people in Cannes aged 85 or 90 who have not yet been vaccinated. In response, David Lisnard said that all people over 75 in Cannes who wanted to be vaccinated have already received at least a first dose, as have all people with co-morbidities as well as nursing staff. 97% of residents in public care homes have also been vaccinated and all people aged 65 to 74 pre-registered on the municipal platform were offered an appointment. He said that the decision to schedule the appointments for younger age groups had been taken in order not to lose vaccine doses. He called the minister's comments a "controversial and unfair attack".
Meanwhile, the mayor of Antibes, Jean Leonetti, has said that he will also open vaccinations to the over 50's without comorbidities. Speaking on France Bleu Azur this morning he said that the town had already finished vaccinating those over 75 who wish to be vaccinated and the age group is therefore being lowered.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the whole of France will be classified as a high-risk zone. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that the move would mean that on the German border "random checks would be more reinforced than now, with compulsory tests and quarantine recommended".
In other news, a 60 year old worker has died after an accident at Larvotto beach in Monaco this morning. The Monaco government said that an investigation has been opened into the circumstances of the accident which involved a loaded vehicle supplying sand to replenish the beach.
The City of Nice has launched a call for projects for its artistic and cultural program for the summer of 2021. It is inviting local artists, associations and professionals in the event, entertainment, culture and heritage areas to present projects and activities that will be held in the city's public spaces. They will be offered to the public free of charge but funding will be granted by the City of Nice for successful projects. The call for applications is open until midnight on April 25.
UK car production fell by 14.0% in February according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. The organization said that the sector faced multiple issues. The February figures were the 18th consecutive month of decline and the weakest February performance in more than a decade as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, new customs processes and global supply chain constraints continued to impact output.
New official figures published today show that the Spanish economy shrank by 10.8% in 2020. It's the worst performance by Spain's economy since records began.
UK retail sales volumes partly recovered in February with an increase of 2.1% compared to an 8.2% fall seen in January. The Office for National Statistics said that sales were still down by 3.7% on a year earlier before the impact of the pandemic. Clothing retailers reported the largest fall in sales volumes, at 50.4%, when compared with February 2020 before the pandemic.
Motorsports... Max Verstappen had the fastest times in both the first and second practice sessions for the Bahrain Grand Prix today. In first practice this morning, Valtteri Bottas was in second place, with Lando Norris in third and Lewis Hamilton fourth. In second practice, Lando Norris was second with Lewis Hamilton taking third place.
Rugby Union...France are facing Scotland this evening in the Six Nations. France will need a big score and bonus points if they are to win the Championship while if Scotland win by at least eight points they’ll finish second in the table. The match at the Stade de France in Paris kicks off at 9 pm.
Cycling.... It's been announced that the 2023 Tour de France will start in the Spanish city of Bilbao. The 110th edition of the Tour is scheduled to begin on Saturday 1 July 2023.
The Bora-Hansgrohe team have pulled out of today's E3 Saxo Bank Classic race after Matthew Walls tested positive for coronavirus. The team said that several PCR tests were carried out on all other team members yesterday, all of which were negative but "according to the instructions of the Belgian Cycling Federation, the team is not allowed to take part."