Evening Update Tuesday 21 April 2020

A new study suggests that by May 11, about 5.7% of the French population will have had the coronavirus. The analysis by several French health organizations estimates that in the east of France and the Paris region, which have been the worst affected, about 12% of people will have contracted the virus by that date. The figure for the Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur region is estimated at 3.4%. One of the organizers of the study, the Institut Pasteur, said that with such comparatively low levels of infection, "major efforts will need to be maintained" after May 11 to avoid a resurgence of the virus.

The Palace in Monaco has said that the coronavirus pandemic will have a major impact on the state budget with an estimated deficit of nearly 500 million euros for the 2020 financial year. This amount corresponds to the exceptional support measures necessary for the Monegasque economy as well as the anticipated decline in state revenues. It said that the gravity of the situation necessitates increased rigorous financial management, particularly for the purpose of an overall reduction in State expenditure. In this context, H.S.H. the Sovereign Prince has decided to reduce the operating expenses of the Prince's Palace by an almost 40% reduction in his endowment, from 13.2 million euros to 8 million euros. The Palace added that Prince Albert has full confidence in the solidity of the economic and social model of the Principality of Monaco to overcome this health crisis which also has unprecedented economic consequences for Monaco.

French Education Minister Jean Michel Blanquer has this afternoon clarified his gradual plan for the reopening of schools from the 11th of May. He said that if a family does not want to send their child to school, this will be possible, but in that case they will have to follow distance learning. He added that a pupil will "never be outside of compulsory education".

Soldiers have been patrolling the streets of Grasse today to enforce confinement measures. The soldiers were there to reinforce the national and municipal police.  Earlier today, Alpes Maritimes deputy Eric Ciotti, asked the Prime Minister to send in the army to areas of France which are not respecting the confinement measures. The request comes after recent clashes beween residents and police in the Hauts-de-Seine department. In his letter to the Prime Minister M. Ciotti said that the health crisis was now accompanied by what he called an "extremely worrying security crisis".

An inmate at Grasse prison has said that he intends to file a complaint against the French state for endangering the lives of others during the coronavirus pandemic. The prisoner alleges that insufficient hygeine measures have been taken at the prison. His lawyer says that a letter has been sent to the public prosecutor's office in Grasse.

Several unions have called for the traditional 1st of May demonstrations to take place but without the usual gatherings in the streets of France. Instead, they have called for participants to post messages of support for workers on social media and some unions have also called for people to display signs on their balconies to show support.

Another event in our region has been postponed because of the pandemic. The Motorsports Games had been due to be held in October in Marseille and at the Paul Ricard circuit. The event, which had its first edition last year in Italy, is now scheduled to take place from the 22 to 24 October next year.

Reports say that the French National Assembly is set to vote on digital tracking measures. The Assembly will debate the controvertial measure, which uses a mobile phone app to track individuals on a voluntary basis to follow transmission of the virus after confinement ends. The debate is scheduled for next Tuesday, the 28th of April.

La Poste has announced a change to mail deliveries. Deliveries are currently made 3 days per week but will now be changed to 4 consecutive days per week, as from today. La Poste also reiterated that it was aiming to have 5,000 post offices open by the end of this month.

The EU Commissioner for the Single Market has said that the EU Commission is working on a recovery plan for the tourism industry. Thierry Breton said that the aim was to try to open up seaside areas in countries which rely heavily on tourism in time for the tourist season. However, he cautioned that "sufficient guarantees" needed to be in place before that could happen. He also said that he expected that the tourism sector would be the slowest to recover after the pandemic.



French car maker PSA, the owner of Peugeot, has announced a fall in revenues of 15.6% in the first quarter compared to the same period last year. The company said that it was now focussing on rebounding in what it called a "chaotic economic environment". Meanwhile, Toyota is reportedly set to resume limited production at its plant near Valenciennes in northern France. The management of the plant have indicated that some workers returned today and they hope to restart production on Thursday.

Associated British Foods, which owns brands such as Twinings, Ryvita and Ovaltine, has announced its interim results for the 24 weeks to the end of February.  The company decided not to declare an interim dividend and said that it had about 1.5 billion pounds in cash and credit facilities. The company also owns fashion retailer Primark and said that  68,000 Primark employees are receiving furlough payments from governments across Europe. Sales at the fashion retailer were about £650m per month prior to the virus lockdown but all stores closed on 22 March and no sales have been made since that date.

UK retailer Kath Kidston has placed its stores into administration. The brand as well as its wholesale and online businesses have been sold to a private equity company as part of a 'pre-pack' administration.

Eastern European budget airline Wizz Air has announced that it has qualified for a UK government coronavirus support scheme for businesses. The company also disclosed that it had 1.5 billion euros in cash at the end of March. Meanwhile, Australia's second biggest airline, Virgin Australia has entered voluntary administration. The business hadn't been successful in it's application for financial support from the Australian government. Chief Executive Paul Scurrah said "Australia needs a second airline and we are determined to keep flying."



Football.. the German health minister and regional leaders have said that Bundesliga matches could possibly resume from 9 May. However, the matches would be played behind closed doors. The league has been suspended since mid-March due to the pandemic.

Golf... Europe captain Padraig Harrington says he and the US team captain Steve Stricker are not in favour of the Ryder Cup being played behind closed doors. Talks have reportedly taken place over holding the competition without spectators, but those plans are said to have faced opposition from players who believe the event relies on the atmosphere generated by spectators. The event is still scheduled to take place in September and Harrington told the BBC that says there is no need to make any decision at this stage and that in another two months "we will know a lot more".



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