Health Minister Olivier Veran has said that the AstraZeneca vaccine will be made available directly in pharmacies in the month of March for people aged 50-64, as well as from their doctors, nurses and other health professionals authorised to administer vaccines.
He said that the average age of vaccinated people is currently 72 years and the government hopes to open vaccination to those aged from 65 to 74 years "between the end of March and mid-April", depending on the number of people over 75 who decide to be vaccinated.
Speaking at a press conference in Paris this evening he said that we are not completely out of the second wave and "the time has not yet come to relax our efforts". Hospital operations are still being cancelled and patients moved between hospitals. Covid is killing as many people in France each week as die in road accidents each year.
Vittoria Colliza, research director at Inserm was also present at the press conference. She said that if France only had the original strain of the coronavirus and not the British variant, it would be possible to have a decline in the epedemic thanks to the 6pm curfew. The 6pm curfew has had "a considerable impact" on the original strain.
The Health Minister said that "the weeks ahead of us are key weeks" and vigilance is needed because of the uncertainty around the variants. In Dunkerque in northern France, the rate of the British variant is 72% and the incidence rate is over 600 cases per 100,000 people and is increasing. Nationally, the British variant accounts for 36% of cases, the Brazilian and South African variants for 5%.
He announced that the period of isolation for those testing positive for Covid-19 would be increased from 7 days to 10 days as from Monday. It remains at 7 days for contact cases. The extension is because some studies suggest that the period of contaigiousness of the variants may be longer than for the historic strain.
He added that it would not be responsible to reopen public spaces because "we would have the risk of closing everything in two weeks".
The Alpes Maritimes has the highest incidence rate of Covid-19 of any department in mainland France, according to figures released by Public Health France today. The department has an incidence rate of 577 per 100,000 people in one week, which is an increase of almost 25% on the previous week's figure. Meanwhile, it's been announced that Health Minister Olivier Veran will be visiting Nice this Saturday.
An agreement has been signed for the deployment of mobile teams of anti-COVID mediators in the Var. Under the agreement signed by the Var prefecture, the PACA Regional Health Agency and the French Red Cross, the mediators will strengthen testing, improve contact tracing, raise awareness of barrier gestures and help with isolation. A first team will be operational from next week which will consist of at least eight trained people. It's hoped that three such teams will be available in the Var by May.
The European Commission has approved a second contract with the pharmaceutical company Moderna, for an additional purchase of 300 million doses on behalf of all EU Member States. The new contract is for 150 million doses in 2021 and an option to purchase an additional 150 million in 2022. It also provides for the possibility to donate the vaccine to lower and middle-income countries or to re-direct it to other European countries.
Mayor of Cannes David Lisnard has laid the foundation stone for a new gerontology center at the Cannes Hospital. In a ceremony this morning the mayor said “a civilization is measured by its ability to respect its elders" and that he wanted to see "a decent care facility built for the elderly poor, for caregivers, and for families". Covering an area of almost 19,000m2, the new 3-storey centre will have 314 beds.
Preparatory work for this year's Monaco Grand Prix is about to get underway. Installation of the infrastructure will begin next Monday, February 22. This year there are exceptionally three Grand Prix events in Monaco because of cancellations last year. The Historic Grand Prix is scheduled to take place on 23-25 April, followed by the EPrix on 8 May and the main Monaco Grand Prix from 20-23 May.
Alpes Maritimes firefighters are carrying out a controlled burn of undergrowth today in an area around Cantaron, near Drap. The burning produces a lot of smoke and local residents are asked to not overload calls to 18 or 112 if they see smoke in the area.
Air France - KLM has reported revenue down 59% for the 2020 year compared to the previous year. The company said that it anticipates a "challenging" first quarter of 2021. It said it will progressively ramp up capacity towards summer and expects recovery in the second and third quarters of this year thanks to vaccine deployment.
A new report says that almost two million people in the UK haven't worked for at least six months because of the pandemic. The report by the Resolution Foundation said that the majority of those people have been on full-time furlough or have gone from furlough to unemployment and back. Another 700,000 have been officially unemployed.
A new survey in the UK suggests that business confidence has risen to its highest level in five years. The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales confidence index rose to 10 in the first quarter of this year from -19 in the last quarter of 2020. 1,000 UK businesses were included in the survey.
Tennis... Novak Djokovic is through to the Australian Open men's final after beating Aslan Karatsev 6-3 6-4 6-2. Daniil Medvedev plays Stefanos Tsitsipas in the other semi-final tomorrow. Meanwhile, Naomi Osaka will face Jennifer Brady in the women's final after beating Serena Williams 6-3 6-4. Brady beat Karolina Muchova 6-4 3-6 6-4.
Cricket.... Chennai Super Kings have bought England player Moeen Ali for the equivalent of about £690,000 in the Indian Premier League auction. Dawid Malan was sold to Punjab Kings for almost £150,000. The most expensive player sold at the 2021 auction so far is South Africa's Chris Morris who was bought for about £1.6m by Rajasthan Royals.
Horse Racing.... Horse racing is set to become the first major sport in Britain to introduce saliva testing for banned substances. Tests will be performed on the day of the race and results will be available almost immediately. A pilot scheme is due to begin in the spring.