Evening Update Thursday 19 March 2020

The Palace in Monaco has announced this afternoon that HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco has tested positive for Covid-19. the Palace said that his state of health is not a source of concern. The Sovereign Prince is followed closely by His attending physician and specialists from the Hospital Center Princess Grace. Prince Albert continues to work from the office of his private apartments. He is in permanent contact with the members of his cabinet, his government as well as with his closest collaborators. His Serene Highness urges the people of Monaco to respect containment measures and limit contact with others to a minimum.

The Monaco Grand Prix has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Dutch and Spanish Grand Prix have also been postponed. The sport's governing body, the FIA, said that it expects the 2020 season to begin "as soon as it is safe to do so after May" and will look at potential alternative dates later in the year. In a joint statement from F1 and the race promoters, it said decisions were taken "to ensure the health and safety of  travelling staff, participants and fans".

Access to all beaches on the Mediterranean coast of France has been banned. The decision was taken jointly by the prefects of Corsica, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and Occitanie. Earlier today, the Prefect of the Alpes Maritimes, Bernard Gonzalez, banned access to all beaches in the department by prefectural decree. He said he'd been forced to take the measure to safeguard the public and the police after previous instructions had been ignored. The Prefect also said that he does not rule out closing the Promenade des Anglais in Nice in view of recent behaviour. The mayor of Villeneuve Loubet, Lionnel Luca, announced today that access to the promenade in Villeneuve Loubet is forbidden. He urged residents to stay in their homes.

The Director General of the health agency, Public Health  France, Genevieve Chêne has announced on French radio this morning that the "prolongation of the confinement  is very likely to be necessary" specifying that it would be necessary to wait "between 2 and 4 weeks" to observe a change in the dynamics of the coronavirus epidemic.  She said that an extension "will most likely be necessary." Meanwhile, the Italian prime minister has already announced that Italy's lockdown measures will be extended - they currently run until the 3 April.  

A drone has been flying above central Nice this afternoon broadcasting messages urging people to respect the confinement measures. According to reports, loudspeakers on the drone have been playing messages saying "travel is prohibited except for exceptions" and "please respect safety distances".

The mayor of Villefranche-sur-Mer, Christophe Trojani, has offered protective masks to traders in the town who are open out of necessity. As well as being mayor of Villefranche Mr. Trojani is a doctor at the CHU in Nice. Meanwhile, the  president of the Federation of Doctors of France, Jean-Paul Hamon, has criticised the shortage of protective masks in the face of the coronavirus epidemic. In an interview today with Le Parisien he said that "doctors are not cannon fodder". He estimated that France would have to produce one million appropriately certified masks per day to provide sufficinet masks for caregivers. Unions representing police officers have also complained about the lack of protective masks for their members. A union representative has said that they will exercise their right of withdrawal if they are not allowed to wear a mask and if measures of social distancing are not taken quickly.

The Minister of Health Olivier Véran told the National Assembly today that thirty million protective masks have been delivered to health personnel over three days but he still called on all French people to use masks sparingly. Meanwhile, the manager of a pharmacy in Paris has been fined for selling the FFP2 type masks, which are for caregivers or sick people. His stock, amounting to almost 1,000 masks was seized by authorities and given to health personnel.

The mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard has called for stricter enforcement of the containment measures. He said he had asked central government for an immediate increase in enforcement of the confinement rules. He said that authorities had to "strike harder, day and night, in each neighborhood where the situation requires it."

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has said that people who do not respect the confinement rules are "imbeciles". He said that such people pose risks to themselves, their family, their loved ones and also to health personnel."

The Ministry of Sport has today clarified the confinement rules by saying that jogging is pemitted, but only for a maximum distance of 2km.
In other news, four hectares of vegitation were consumed by fire at the Col de Vence last night. Sixty firefighters brought the blaze under control in a difficult to access area, with a reduced number remaining on site this morning to fully extinguish the blaze.



The European Central Bank has launched an emergency €750bn package aimed at easing the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. the ECB's Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme will buy government and company debt across the eurozone. the move comes just six days after the ECB unveiled initial measures to combat the crisis. The head of the ECB Christine Lagarde tweeted that "there are no limits" to its commitment to the euro.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, has tested positive for coronavirus today. Mr Barnier said he was "doing well and in good spirits". His diagnosis introduces more doubt into the process of negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal between the EU and the UK. Mr Barnier had been due to hold talks in London this week, but they were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Australian airline Qantas has become the latest major airline to cancel its international flights. Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said “lots of airlines are going to go under” but that Quantas will not be one of them. Meanwhile, the heads of both EasyJet and Lufthansa have said some airlines may not survive without government support if the coronavirus pandemic continues for a significant period of time. Lufthansa has already held talks with the German government about providing special loans.

The CEO of UK fashion retailer Next has said that the business faces a "very significant drop in sales" as a result of the effect of the coronavirus. Lord Wolfson said online sales were "likely to fare better" than the shops, but would also suffer "significant losses".



English football will be suspended until at least 30 April because of the continued spread of coronavirus. All games in England's Premier League, EFL, Women's Super League and Women's Championship, and all fixtures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, are postponed. The Football Association has also agreed that the current season can be "extended indefinitely" beyond the original end date of 1 June.

World Athletics chief Lord Coe has said that it's too early to decide whether to cancel the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has said the Games could still begin on 24 July despite the coronavirus pandemic causing other events to be cancelled. In an interview with the BBC today Lord Coe also said "If you had to ease that date, you'd have to ease it. It is possible. Anything is possible."

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