Evening Update Wednesday 24 February 2021

New figures released by the Pasteur Institute suggest that approximately 20 to 25% of people over the age of twenty in the Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur region may have contracted Covid-19. However, the Institute said that care must be taken when interpreting its estimates which it said "are based on fairly strong assumptions". It also cautioned that while the infection is "likely to confer short-term immunity", it is possible that immunity will subside over time. It said that the percentage of infected people estimated in its study must therefore be interpreted as an upper limit for the proportion of the population being immune following an infection. The study includes data up to 16 February.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran has said that he will ask the Prefect of the Nord department to put a weekend confinement in place in the town of Dunkerque and the Hauts-de-Flandres. Speaking earlier this evening during a visit to the area in the north of France, the minister said that he would also ask the Prefect to limit the activities of stores larger than 5,000 square metres to click and collect and to limit other shops to 15 square metres per customer. He is also asking for a ban to be put in place on the sale of take away alcohol and the consumption of alcohol on public roads throughout the department. The incidence rate of the coronavirus in Dunkerque is over 900 per 100,000 people. The minister said that 1% of the population of the town is getting ill every week. He added that a list of ten departments where the epedemic is "worrying" will be announced at a press conference tomorrow.

Earlier today French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal, who was speaking after a Council of Ministers and a Health Defence Council meeting this morning, said that the fight against the virus "is deteriorating" and what he called "rapid and strong" measures are required in certain territories.

The Metropole Nice Cote d'Azur Council of Mayors held an exceptional meeting this morning to discuss the new coronavirus measures taken by the Prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes and the schedule of the vaccination campaigns in the municipalities. The 49 mayors approved a new distribution of FFP2 masks to private health professionals via a drive-in mask centre in Nice as well as deliveries for the municipalities of the area. The mayors also adopted an additional economic measure - a flat-rate aid of 300 euros to help traders, artisans and very small businesses closed during the next two weekends of local confinement. The measure will be  submitted to the next meeting of the Council of the Metropolitan area. Meanwhile, President of the South Region, Renaud Muselier has said that there will be a large increase in the distribution of FFP2 masks, with 80,000 being made available in the Alpes-Maritimes this week and 200,000 next week. He also said that there will be a large increase in testing in schools.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has issued a reminder that the Ministry of the Interior is offering more than 10,000 internships, apprenticeship contracts and other opportunities, to third-year secondary school pupils, high school students, apprentices and students up to the age of 26 or up to 30 years old for people with disabilities. The jobs at the Ministry include those in the fields of security, finance, management, catering, mechanics and logistics. Further details are available on the Interior Ministry website.

The municipality of Menton will be testing a a new way of hiring electric-assisted bicycles. The new arrangement does away with the system of stations and terminals. After you've finished with the bike you can leave it where you want, for example at home, workplace, shop or seaside, in a place that respects the safety of pedestrians, road users and the bike itself. Ten machines will be available initially at a cost of 15 cents per minute with reservations being made by the Bik'air app. More details at www.menton-infos.fr



Heathrow Airport has announced an annual loss of £2bn for 2020. The airport said that the loss "underlines the devastating impact of COVID-19 on aviation". Overall revenue fell 62% and passenger numbers were the lowest since the 1970's. It said that government policies over recent months have effectively closed borders and it asked UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak to support the sector by providing 100% business rates relief, extending the furlough scheme and reversing the tourist tax.

New official figures show that the German economy grew more than previously estimated in the final quarter of last year. GDP grew by 0.3% in the quarter partly due to an increase in foreign trade.

Carmaker Hyundai has announced that it's replacing  batteries in nearly 82,000 of its electric vehicles worldwide because of a fire risk. Most of the affected vehicles are Kona cars built between 2018 and 2020, but some buses and Ioniq cars are also affected.



Football..... Neil Lennon has resigned from his post as manager of Celtic. The team are currently 18 points below rivals Rangers in the Scottish Premiership. Assistant manager John Kennedy will take charge on an interim basis.

Rugby Union...Six Nations organisers have confirmed that the France against Scotland match is set to go ahead as planned in Paris on Sunday. The match had been in doubt after the France head coach, 10 players and two members of staff tested postitive. However, tests carried out yesterday and earlier today have yielded no further positive cases.

Cricket..... England have been bowled out for 112 on the first day of the Test against India. Axar Patel took 6-38 and Ravichandran Ashwin 3-26. At the close of play, India were 99 for 3 after 33.0 overs meaning that India are trailing England by just 13 runs with 7 wickets remaining.

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