Evening Update Thursday 25 February 2021

A press conference has been held in Paris at which Prime Minster Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Veran have given an update on the health situation. The Alpes Maritimes and the Var are on a list of 20 departments which the Prime Minister said are being placed in a state of "maximum vigilance".

The Prime Minister began by saying that the health situation in France has been deteriorating in the past few days, with over 30,000 new cases yesterday.
He said that the English variant now accounts for about half of people with Covid-19 in France and that the virus "is progressing in France", as almost everywhere else in Europe, and the reason is because of the variants.

He said that weekend confinement is an "intermediate measure" which the government hopes will help curb the trend.

The Prime Minister continued by saying that the hospital situation and an accumulation of unfavourable indicators mean that some departments are subject to "maximum vigilance". These 20 departments are all of the Ile-de-France, a large part of Hauts-de-France and Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur, but also the departments of Rhone and Drome, Moselle and Meurthe-et-Moselle, and Eure-et-Loir. He announced that the twenty departments are being place under what he called "enhanced surveillance"and has asked the prefects of those departments to start consultations with elected officials to consider "breaking measures" being put in place similar to thsoe in Nice and Dunkerque. He said that the situation will be monitored next week and if the situation continues to deteriorate then "enhanced measures" will come into effect from the weekend of 6 March. The Alpes Maritimes, the Var and the Bouches du Rhone are all on the list of departments.

As regards the vaccination programme, the Prime Minister said that by the end of this month over 4 million vaccines will have been admisistered to over 3 million people. He said that vaccination will be opened to people aged over 65 at the beginning of April.

Olivier Veran said that 35,000 people in France have so far been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Health Minister also mentioned "innovative treatments" which could prevent serious forms of Covid-19. He said that more should be known about some of these treatments in a few weeks but 83 hospitals have already received one type of treatment which is being administered with caution to patients aged 80 and over who have immunity disorders.

He added that every day brings us closer to "climatic periods which we know are less condusive to the circulation of the virus".

Commenting on the AstraZeneca vaccine, Alain Fischer, the head of the vaccines strategy body, who was also at the press conference, said that there was no reason to consider that vaccine to be a "second category" vaccine. He said that new results seem to indicate that it is effective in the over 65's and, "if these results are confirmed", it is "excellent news" and could suggest that that the vaccine could be recommended for those aged 65-74.

The Health Minister said earlier today that AstraZeneca vaccines are now available from general practitioners for patients aged 50 to 64 with co-morbidities.

Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has been visiting the vaccine center at the Palais Nikaïa today where he met some of the five hundred people who are involved in vaccine adminsitration in Nice across the four vaccination sites, mobile teams and telephone support teams. The mayor said that a total of 95,205 people are now registered via the vaccine registration platform, 62,910 for Nice and 32,295 for the municipalities of the Metropole Nice Cote d'Azur. He said that all registered people in the Metropolis over 75 now have a scheduled appointment and will be vaccinated by the end of April. He also said that a new centre is being opened following receipt of 9,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and the 30,000 doses that will be received in March for healthcare professionals and those over 50 with co-morbidities.

A curfew control operation was carried out by authorities in Nice yesterday. Areas checked included the Avenue Thiers, Avenue du Capitaine Ferber, Place Ile de beauté, Fontaine du Temple, the Place Masséna and the Promenade des Anglais. 55 fines were issued for not wearing a mask, 62 for lack of a certificate, 15 for traffic violations and 10 for alcohol consumption on public roads.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin is visiting Marseilles today with a view to clamping down on the drugs trade. The last few months have seen an escalation in turf wars between rival drugs gangs.

The Paris prosecutors office has opened an investigation into the leaking of certain medical data of almost half a million people in France. Reports say that files containing the data have been posted online. The investigation is being conducted by the cybercrime unit of the prosecutor's office.

Tributes have been paid to Muriel Marland-Militello, a well known Nice political figure, who died earlier today at the age of 77. She was a former deputy mayor of Nice and MP for the second district of the Alpes Maritimes.

Tickets have gone on sale for the night train between Paris and Nice. The service was discontinued over three years ago but is now being reinstated as part of the governement's economic stimulus plan. The first train will be on 16 April. The train will run in both directions to and from the capital and will call at stations including Marseille, Toulon, Les Arcs, Saint-Raphael, Cannes and Antibes as well as Nice.

The Cannes Town Hall has joined the International Council for Local Ecological Initiatives , which is a global network of local authorities dedicated to sustainable development. Founded in 1990 and sponsored by the United Nations, the organisation is involved in improving the global ecological situation through the implementation of local actions and  helping communities cope with complex challenges  such as rapid urbanization, climate change, ecosystem degradation and social inequalities. It brings together more than 1,750 local communities in 124 countries.

The Fontan Fire and Rescue Center, in collaboration with the barracks of the valley de la Roya, have produced a commemorative badge to pay tribute to two colleagues who lost their lives while providing assistance during Storm Alex. On sale at a price of € 8 each or € 15 for two, the sale is in aid of the associations of the Roya-Bévéra valleys and their impacted firefighters. More details can be found at https://www.pompiers.fr/actualites/un-ecusson-commemoratif-cree-en-hommage-aux-evenements-tragiques-de-la-tempete-alex



The owner of clothing retailer Primark, Associated British Foods, has issued a trading update. It said that Primark’s sales for the half year are estimated to be some £2.2bn, compared to £3.7bn in the first half of the last financial year. The majority of its stores were closed during November and from the end of December and the company estimates the loss of sales while stores were closed to be some £1.1bn. Primark does not sell its merchandise online. It said that performance has varied by store reflecting the circumstances of  customers including home working, less commuting and very little tourism.

UK supermarket group Asda has announced that it has begun consulting with workers over a restructuring of the business which could put about 5,000 jobs at risk. However, the company also said that it plans to create 4,500 jobs as order pickers and delivery drivers for its online offering. Chief executive Roger Burnley said that the pandemic has accelerated change across the retail sector.

Energy company Drax has decided against building what would have been Europe's largest gas power station. It had planned to build the plant at its site near Selby in North Yorkshire. It recently sold it existing gas plants and has announced plans to increase biomass power production.



Rugby Union... The Scotland against France Six Nations match this weekend has been postponed. The France Rugby Federation announced today that an eleventh player has tested positive for Covid-19. Organisers said a new date for the game will be announced "in due course".

Meanwhile, Jamie George will return to the England starting XV for the game against Wales on Saturday. There are two changes from the side that beat Italy with George in for Luke Cowan-Dickie and Mark Wilson replacing Courtney Lawes.

Cricket...... India have won the third Test by ten wickets after England were all out for 81 in their second innings. India were 49 for no loss in their second innings.

Football.. There are more games in the Europa League tonight with Arsenal against Benfica. Leicester against Slavia Prague. Manchester United against Real Sociadad and Rangers against Royal Antwerp.

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