Evening Update Wednesday 28 April 2021

President Macron will present an exit strategy from Covid-19 restrictions on Friday. French Prime Minister Jean Castex held a press conference today at which he said the President will present a "gradual and phased" exit strategy. He said that the epedemic continues to improve "at a steady pace" and "we are on a real downward trend". He added that the government's intention is to have a "gradual exit" "as the vaccination campaign unfolds".

The Prime Minister said that a bill to lift the state of health emergency had been discussed at a Health Defence Council meeting this morning. He said that the bill would propose a "transitional regime" lasting until the end of October which would still give the government the power to impose restricitons, such as border controls, in the event of a rebound in the epedemic. He said that the bill would no longer allow the imposition of a curfew but it would still allow certain places open to the public to be closed.

As regards the issuing of health passes, he said that he wanted to give such passes a legislative basis. Passes would be used to travel into and out of France and would include details such as vaccination and tests. He added that other uses of the pass, such as enabling the attending of sporting events, must be discussed and would be a decision taken by parliament.

Regarding vaccinations, the Prime Minister said that the goal of reaching 15 million people receiving their first vaccinations "is within our reach" by the end of this week.

The Cannes town hall has opened vaccination appointments for Cannes residents aged 40 and over without comorbidity. The appointments are also extended to private professionals over the age of 40 working in Cannes. As of today, its possible to register via the municipal appointment-making scheme. Further details can be found at www.cannes.com

In other news, seven former members of far-left Italian militant groups have been arrested in France. They had been convicted of terrorism charges in Italy dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. Three other Italian nationals are still being sought. The arrests were made at the request of the Italian government, which has sought the extradition of Italian far-left extremists from France for many years.

The European Parliament has ratified the post-Brexit EU-UK trade deal. MEPs voted in favour by 660 votes to 5, while 32 abstained. The Trade and Co-operation Agreement has been operating provisionally since January.  The UK parliament approved the agreement in December. The UK's chief negotiator, Lord Frost, said the vote "brings certainty and allows us to focus on the future". The European Parliament's Brexit Co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, described the deal as "a failure for both sides, but better than nothing".


BUSINESS

UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's has reported a pre-tax loss of £261m for the year to 6 March. Like-for-like sales rose by 8.1%. The company said it had spent £485m on Covid-related costs, including paying staff who were required to shield or needed to self-isolate. It also paid back business rates relief on its stores.

Electronics retailer Dixons Carphone has announced the closure of its airport stores. The company said that it doesn't expect passenger numbers to recover sufficiently to compensate for the removal of airside tax-free shopping by the UK Government from 1 January. It said that this had led to the "difficult decision to close this business, which historically made an annual profit contribution of over £20m".


SPORT

Tennis...Novak Djokovic has said that he won't be competing in next month's Madrid Open. He added that he was sorry he would not be able to travel to Madrid. The world number one is still expected to play in Rome and Belgrade next month as part of his preparations for the French Open which starts on 30 May.

Rugby Union...George North has been ruled out of the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa after suffering a knee injury during the Ospreys match against Cardiff Blues at the weekend. The Wales player said that he will be having surgery next week.

Cricket... Former Sri Lanka player Nuwan Zoysa has been banned from all cricket for six years by the ICC for match-fixing. The ban is backdated to 31 October 2018, when he was provisionally suspended.

Football...The first leg of the Champions League semi-final between Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City is being played at the Parc des Prince tonight. Kick off is at 9pm.

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