Evening Update Thursday 4 February 2021

A press conference has been held this evening in Paris attended by Prime Minister Jean Castex and several of his ministers. He began began by saying that there continue to be an average of 20,000 new infections and 1,600 hospitalisations per day but the circulation of the virus has not significantly increased in the last weeks. He said a "graduated strategy" had been applied which has enabled the government to "keep control of the epedemic" whilst preserving the economic and social life of the country. He said that the current situation does not justify a new containment, which can only be considered "as a last resort".

He said that the new variants pose a very real threat to France, as they do to other countries, and the recent introduction of measures to limit foreign travel outside the EU are to prevent people carrrying a variant arriving in France. He also mentioned teleworking which he said "we are not using enough to curb the epedemic" and revealed that since the end of last year the number of people teleworking had actually fallen. He called on people who test positive to isolate immediately and not leave home for seven days and also to help the health authorities to identify contacts.

As regards vaccinations, he said 1.5 million had been carried out in January, compared to the 1 million which had been originally planned. 100,000 people were vaccinated yesterday. 1.7 million appointments for first injections are going to be opened in the coming days. 500,000 appontments will be for the end of February which will be open tomorrow. 1.2 million appointments will be for March, which will be open from the middle of next week. 500,000 more slots will be gradually opened for March.

He said that a delay of 3 to 4 weeks between the first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine was going to continue to be observed.

The Prime Minister added that the arrival of the Astra Zeneca vaccine will allow the pace of the vaccinations to be accelerated and 4 million people will have received their first injection by the end of February. The first delivery will be at the end of this week with the first vaccinations, which will be for health establishments, maybe starting on Saturday.

Health Miniser Olivier Veran said that testing was going to be increased, particularly in schools.

He said that what he called "mediators" will be deployed who would have the role of carrying out tests as well as helping with contact tracing and isolation.

M. Veran said that the Brazilian variant had been identified as being in France yesterday. He said a clear goal is to limit the spread of the variants as much as possible as they can't be eradicated and we are therefore "in a race against time". He added that the Brazilian and South African variants worry the government even moe than the British variant because of a lack of data.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that the number of coronavirus controls had increased last weekend compared to the previous weekend. 177,000 fines have been given since the start of the curfew. 587 restaurants and bars were checked yesterday.

As regards flights, he said that the number of passengers had fallen from 65,000 to 20,000 per day since Monday.

Minister of Labour Elisabeth Bourne said that the number of people teleworking has been falling since last November. She estimated that one third of workers in France are able to telework and asked companies to mobilize to permit employees to telework and also to increase teleworking for one extra day per week for those employees who are already teleworking for one , two or three days per week.

Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said that the EU has made firm orders for more than 2.6 billion vaccine doses so far. She said that France will help produce four vaccines over the coming months - Moderna from March, BioNTech from April, Curevac - if it is authorized - from May and Sanofi from June.

She also reminded people that a government helpline is available for employees who suffer from isolation. The number is 0800 130 000.

The English variant of the coronavirus continues to increase in France according to a prominent virologist. Bruno Lina, who is a member of the government's scientific council said that, according to a survey conducted on 27 January, the penetration rate of the variant is 13.8%. He said that there are regional variations with for example a figure of 20% being recorded in the Ile-de-France, Brittany and the Grand-Est. The survey also showed the South African variant to be present in France but at much lower levels, in the order of 1 to 2 per cent. More than 26,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus in 24 hours, according to data from Public Health France released yesterday.

Demonstrations have been taking place across France on today's day of industrial action. Unions are calling for the maintainence of jobs and public services. Public transport has been affected with many bus services being cancelled and lines 1, 2 and 3 of the Nice tramway not running today.

A second person has been arrested in connection with a police investigation into the beheading of a man in Toulon on Monday. Reports say that the other person arrested is a naval officer who was transferred to a hospital psychiatric unit after his arrest.

The Lot-et-Garonne department in south-west France has been lowered from a red warning to an orange warning for flooding by Meteo France. Several other departments in the west of France and also in the north are still under orange warnings. Meteorologists have said that the flooding in the Lot-et-Garonne over the past few days has been the worst in forty years.

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi has visited a major construction project underway in the Saint Jean d´Angély district of the city. A mixed use complex is being built near the university consisting of a 10-screen multiplex cinema, social and private housing, shops and restaurants as well as a park and ride with 360 places. A  3,800 square metre park will be created in 2022 which will feature a new amphitheatre.

A meeting has taken place in Monaco between Monegasque authorities and the French Maritime Gendarmerie. The purpose of this meeting was to take stock of the training needs of the Monegasque Maritime Police teams and to foster enhanced cooperation.

The Prefect of the Alpes Maritimes has drawn the attention of drone operators to a recent change in regulations. Since December 31, 2020, the use of civilian drones traveling outdoors in France is subject to EU  regulations which replace the national aviation safety regulations on drones. More details can be found on the government website https://www.service-public.fr/particuliers/actualites/A14606



Royal Dutch Shell has announced a net loss of $21.7bn last year after a fall in demand due to the pandemic. Chief Executive Officer, Ben van Beurden said that 2020 was an " extraordinary year" and the company had taken "tough but decisive actions".  Last September it announced that up to 9,000 jobs would go worldwide and last month it announced the loss of 330 jobs in its North sea operations.

Just over 90,000 new cars were registered in the UK in January , which is the worst start to a year since 1970. However, figures from industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that 2020 delivered the cleanest vehicles in history as average CO2 emissions fell by 11.8% on the previous year.



Cricket.... Zak Crawley has been ruled out of the first two Tests against India after spraining his wrist in a freak accident. Crawley slipped on a marble floor outside the changing room during a practice session yesterday. The four Test series begins on Friday.

Pakistan finished the first day of the Second Test in Rawalpindi on 145-3. Captain Babar Azam hit an unbeaten 77. Rain affected play for part of the day. South Africa are yet to bat.

Tennis... The CEO of Tennis Australia has said that he is "absolutely confident" the Australian Open will start as planned on Monday, despite many players waiting for the outcome of coronavirus tests.  507 people connected to the event were told to isolate after a hotel worker tested positive for Covid-19. Play at six warm-up events and the Slam draws were postponed today but Craig Tiley said that organisers "fully expect to keep the original schedule after today".

Rugby Union... Ollie Lawrence will make his Six Nations debut for England in the match against Scotland on Saturday at Twickenham. There are also starts for lock Jonny Hill and flanker Mark Wilson. George Ford is among the replacements. Cameron Redpath will make his debut for Scotland.

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