A press conference has taken place in Paris this evening at which French Health Minister Olivier Veran has given an update on the health situation. He began by saying that the situation is "tense and worrying". Health pressure is now reaching similar levels to the peak of the second wave. He said that the situation is particularly concerning in the Hauts-de-France, the Ile-de-France and the Provence-Alpes-Cotes d'Azur region. In the Ile-de-France the minister said a resident is being admitted to intensive care every 12 minutes around the clock and that "dozens or even hundreds" of medical transfers out of the region will take place in the coming days. However, he said that the local restrictions put in place in some areas of France recently are bearing fruit, especially in the Alpes-Maritimes. The minister did not mention any possible new confinements.
He said that the variants are more contagious than the classic Covid-19 and are gradually replacing it. They now represent more than two-thirds of infections in France.
As regards vaccinations, he said that 4,540,000 people had now received a first injection. 286,000 people have been vaccinated in the past 24 hours, which he said is a record.
Commenting on the AstraZeneca vaccine, the use of which has been suspended by several countries today, the minister said that he had been in touch with the national drug safety agency and they had said that there is no need to suspend vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
27,166 new cases of the virus have been recorded in France in the past 24 hours according to Sante Publique France.
Denmark, Iceland and Norway have announced that they have suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precaution. The Danish health authority said that there had been reports of serious cases of blood clots in people who have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine but it was too early to say whether there was a link to the vaccine. AstraZeneca said that the vaccine's safety has been studied extensively in clinical trials and peer-reviewed data confirmed it had been "generally well tolerated". The European Medicines Agency said today that the vaccine can continue to be administered whilst an investigation into the cases is continuing.
Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency and the European Union have both approved the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine today.
The French government has announced that as from tomorrow, travellers will no longer need a "compelling reason" to visit the UK, Australia, New Zealand or several other countries. There will also be no need to demonstrate a compelling reason to enter France from the countries concerned. The French government said that the specific health situation in the foreign destinations had been taken into account in reaching the decision as well as the British variant now being widespread in France. The other countries for which a "compelling reason" will not be required are South Korea, Israel, Japan and Singapore. The list of compelling or personal reasons for visiting other countries outside the European Area has also been extended as of tomorrow.
The Monaco government has said that it recommends not going to the Alpes-Maritimes during this weekends confinement in the department except for compelling reasons. A PCR test is required for Monaco residents who visit the Alpes-Maritimes or Var Departments for a period of more than 24 hours. For all trips beyond the Alpes-Maritimes or Var Departments, a PCR test of less than 72 hours is required. The French government announced yesterday that coastal areas of the Alpes-Maritimes Department will be confined from tomorrow, Friday, at 6:00 p.m. until Monday at 6:00 a.m.
The French Interior Ministry has drawn attention to fraudulent e-mails claiming to have been sent by Santé Publique France. The emails have the logo of Santé Publique and encourage recipients to order Covid-19 protective equipment. The ministry says to execise caution and that under no circumstances should you answer the e-mails.
Ceremonies have been held throughout France as part of the national day of homage to the victims of terrorism. Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi was present this morning at a ceremony at Les Invalides in Paris also attended by President Macron. The mayor also paid a tribute in Nice this afternoon. Elsewhere in our region, the Prefect of the Var, Evence Richard, presided over a ceremony in the presence of civil and military authorities and representatives of associations helping victims of terrorism. In Marseille, a ceremony took place in front of the Saint Charles railway station where two people were stabbed in 2017.
The Monaco government has launched an electronic signature for Monegasque companies. The initiative is one of the projects of the Principality's digital transition program, Extended Monaco. It will now allow companies to affix an electronic signature to digital documents with the same value as a handwritten signature.
The Mayor of Antibes Jean Leonetti and Frédéric Poma the Mayor of Tourrettes-sur-Loup, visited a vaccination center this morning to distribute flowers to volunteers. The Fête des Violettes has been cancelled this year but to help local businesses the Mayor of Tourrettes-sur-Loup has ordered 6,000 bouquets from local producers.
The Department of the Alpes-Maritimes is taking applications for food trucks to be stationed on the RD6098 coast road in Antibes. There are seven potential places for the years 2021 to 2023, with a minimum period of 4 months of occupation between April 1 and October 31.
Aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce has reported a loss of almost £4bn for 2020. The company made a profit of 583m pounds in 2019. Reductions in airline travel because of the pandemic caused a fall in revenues at its civil aerospace business to 5 billion pounds in 2020 compared with 8 billion pounds in the previous year.
UK retailer the John Lewis Partnership has announced a loss before tax of £517m for the year to the end of January, compared to a profit of £146m in the previous year. Exceptional costs of £648m were recorded, mainly in the write down in the value of John Lewis shops owing to what it called the "pronounced shift to online", as well as restructuring and redundancy costs. It also announced that it wouldn't be reopening some of its department stores and wouldn't be paying a bonus to staff for the first time in 67 years.
Rugby Union... Virimi Vakatawa is back in France's starting fifteen against England at Twickenham on Saturday. Max Malins will make his first start for England in the match. Luke Cowan-Dickie will start at hooker and Charlie Ewels is in the second row.
In other Six Nations news, Six Nations Rugby has announced that it has agreed a long-term strategic partnership with private equity business CVC. CVC will invest up to £365 million for a 1/7th share in Six Nations Rugby, working alongside the rugby unions of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland & Wales, which will together retain the remainder of the business. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals. Ben Morel, CEO of Six Nations Rugby called it "a hugely positive development".
Football... Round of 16 ties in the Europa League are being played tonight with Manchester United against AC Milan, Arsenal away at Olympiakos and Spurs at home to Dinamo Zagreb. Rangers visit Slavia Prague.