Evening Update Thursday 13th October 2022

The French government has appealed for increased vigilance in the face of a resurgence in the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus. After a quiet summer, the eighth wave is well under way. Across the country, more than 5,000 people are currently in hospital and more than 500 in intensive care. In the Alpes-Maritimes, nearly 800 people are testing positive each day. Government spokesman Olivier Véran called for increased mask-wearing, more regular testing, and for those who are eligible to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

A fire in an apartment in the Libération district of Nice has left one resident seriously injured with burns. The fire broke out on Wednesday evening on the first floor of an apartment block on Rue Prince-Maurice, behind the Gare du Sud. 27 firefighters were called out to the scene and the origin of the fire is not yet clear. The flat's occupant was airlifted to Toulon hospital, which has a specialist burns unit. About 30 residents of the building were evacuated as a precaution, none of whom were injured. They were able to return to their homes later in the evening.

The Alpes-Maritimes head of the CGT trade union has described the French government's decision to requisition striking fuel workers as "provocation". Gérard Ré said the workers blockading fuel depots would only stop when the demands of employees are accepted. In an interview this week, he said the strike will last as long as it takes - and wages had to be increased.

Faced with the ongoing fuel shortage, green councillors in Nice are putting pressure on the city to urgently make all public transport free. Elected environmentalists on the city council also want Nice to make on-street parking free so that those who do not have a garage or a car-park subscription can leave their car and use public transport instead.

Meanwhile, the Var préfecture has extended its restrictions on buying fuel until Sunday. The measures had been due to expire tomorrow. They include a ban on filling up jerry cans, a 30 litre limit at the pump for individuals, and seven priority filling stations around the department with lanes that are reserved for essential services.

Gendarmes have seized almost 400 kilos of cannabis resin during a raid on a house in La Roquette sur Siagne. The raid was part of a major investigation into drug trafficking opened by the Grasse prosecutor's office. Officers found 99 kilos of cannabis resin in the house and another 281 kilos while searching a nearby vehicle. They also seized €24,000 in cash. Five suspected dealers were arrested. They're due to appear before an investigating magistrate tomorrow.

An accident overnight on the A8 motorway required Vinci Autoroutes to carry out emergency repairs to the road on Thursday morning. The circumstances of the accident are not yet clear. The eastbound carriageway had been to be repaired just after the junction for Mandelieu. This led to long traffic jams during the morning peak. Meanwhile there were big queues on the A8 north of Nice around 9am this morning after an accident occurred in the westbound Canta-Galet tunnel. The Nice-Est and Nice-Nord entry sliproads had to be closed to prevent cars joining the already satured motorway. There were also big delays around the Promenade des Anglais in Nice just before lunchtime today, following a collision between a car and a scooter.

Two people were airlifted to hospital after their boat caught fire off the coast of Bandol in the Var. Rescuers were called out after thick smoke could be seen emerging from the 10-metre boat. The boat's two occupants, a couple in their 70s, were taken by a Navy helicopter to Sainte-Anne hospital in Toulon where they were treated for smoke inhalation.

And a new international festival is coming to Cannes next year. The Cannes Gaming Festival claims to be the first festival of its kind in France dedicated to all the creative industries around video games. The first edition of the five-day event is planned for next October and will include an awards ceremony with an international jury. It's being organised by a former president of PSG and ex-manager at TV channel M6. Organisers hope a gaming festival will give the industry the recognition it deserves and that the awards will become the equivalent of the Césars, but for video games instead of cinema.

BUSINESS

The UK’s Brexit “divorce bill” stood at €41.8bn (£36.7bn) in 2021, according to the EU’s official auditors. The European court of auditors’ annual report revealed that the UK was expected to make €10.9bn in payments to the EU during 2022. The Brexit divorce bill was down from €47.5bn (£41.7bn) in 2020, reflecting payments made by the British government. Tony Murphy, the president of the European court of auditors, said the final amount the UK pays to the EU was not expected to change much. EU estimates of the Brexit financial settlement have tended to be higher than those of the British government, which forecast Brexit spending commitments between £35 and £39bn. The Treasury, however, in July revised the Brexit bill upwards by £5bn, from £37.3bn to £42.5b, blaming the rising cost on meeting the UK’s obligations to pay EU staff pensions.

The turmoil on UK financial markets has intensified after the Bank of England insisted its emergency bond-buying scheme would come to an end this week. The cost of government borrowing over 10 years briefly surged to its highest level since 2008, as investors demanded higher returns to lend to the UK. The Bank has been buying government bonds to prevent a sell-off which could put some pension schemes at risk. On Wednesday it stressed this help would end on Friday come what may. The Bank first stepped in last month after promises of huge, unfunded tax cuts in the chancellor's "mini-budget" sparked a dramatic reaction on financial markets. The pound hit a record low and bond prices fell sharply, forcing the Bank to promise to buy up to £65bn of government bonds to support their price. So far it has only spent around £10bn of this pledged amount. But while the intervention initially worked, bond yields - in other words the interest rates the government pays to investors - are now close to or above the highs seen straight after the mini-budget.

EasyJet has warned the closure of Ukrainian airspace could continue to cause flight disruption next summer. Congestion in the skies over Europe is causing delays for airlines, chief commercial officer Sophie Dekkers told MPs. Ukraine's airspace has been closed since February due to Russia's invasion. Airlines also said the tight labour market would continue to make hiring enough staff difficult. Dekkers told the Transport Select Committee this had caused a severe air traffic control challenge, because lots of traffic had to be routed through "a very narrow funnel across Europe". This, she said, meant any flights going through southern Europe were subject to delays and knock-on effects. The low-cost carrier does not think this will change in the near future, so the need to allow for delays would be taken into account when building its schedule for summer 2023.

SPORT

Football - Manchester United will fight any attempt to ban Cristiano Ronaldo over an incident involving a fan's mobile phone at Everton in April. United manager Erik ten Hag said the Portugal forward 'will not accept' the Football Association's 'improper and/or violent conduct' charge. Ronaldo received a police caution after he knocked a phone out of a fan's hands in an incident following a 1-0 defeat by Everton at Goodison Park. He had been given until Monday evening to respond to the FA charge, which could only be brought following the end of Merseyside Police's involvement in the case in August. United had not stated what Ronaldo's response was.

Boxing - Conor Benn says he expects an "apology" from his critics as the investigation continues into his failed drugs test. Benn's bout with fellow Briton Chris Eubank Jr on 8 October was called off after he tested positive for the banned substance Clomifene. Promoters said his test returned an "adverse analytical finding for trace amounts of a fertility drug". UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) is investigating Benn's test. Benn said on Instagram: "I hope the apology is as loud as the disrespect."

Rugby Union - Financially troubled Wasps have been suspended from the Premiership after announcing they are "likely" to go into administration "within days". The club have twice filed notice to get insolvency experts in to help with their debts, which run to tens of millions of pounds. They face becoming the second side to go into administration within weeks, following Worcester last month. Wasps can reapply for the suspension to be lifted if they are able to demonstrate the means and commitment to pay their rugby creditors.

Local football - OGC Nice are playing the Czech side FC Slovàcko in a Europa Conference League match at the Allianz Riviera this evening at 9pm. The match is being played almost behind closed doors - with regular supporters banned from attending, after the violence that erupted at a Nice-Cologne match last month. Instead, Uefa has invited 200 schoolchildren under the age of 14 to attend the match. The young OGC Nice supporters have been selected from various local sports clubs.

Meanwhile, Marseille supporters have been issued with a travel ban prohibiting them from attending the away match at Paris Saint Germain this Sunday. Marseille football club said it was disappointed that an increasing number of travel bans were being issued, preventing fans going to see matches. The club said it intends to work with police to ensure that supervised and well-organised away visits can continue to be organised in the future.

Cycling - Fans of cycling are in for a treat next year with the 2023 schedule of professional races on the Riviera now confirmed by the International Cycling Union. The department remains very present in the men's professional race calendar in France. In addition to the traditional Paris-Nice in early March, the region will host the 53rd edition of the Tour of the Var and Alpes-Maritimes in mid-February and the Mercan'tour, a one-day race around Valberg, will take place at the end of May. According to the Alpes-Maritimes departmental council, this year these events were followed by a TV audience of almost 10 million viewers, in more than 50 countries.

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