Covid intensive care - France has again passed the threshold of 4,000 patients in intensive care, a first since the end of 2020. The number of intensive care patients passed below the 2,600 threshold at the beginning of January and was only yesterday reported as stabilizing.
Figures - According to the latest data from Public Health France there have been 266 additional deaths in the last 24 hours compared to 299 the day before. The total number of deaths in France from Covid stands at 89,856. The vaccination rate in France currently stand at 6.8% of the population.
Press conference - Three regions of France continue to cause concern the Hauts-de-France, Ile-de-France and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Following Thursday's press conference, the minister of Health said that “pressure is now reaching similar levels to the peak of the second wave. In the Ile-de-France the minister said a resident is being admitted to intensive care every 12 minutes and that "dozens or even hundreds" of medical transfers out of the region will take place in the coming days. However, he said that the local restrictions put in place in some areas of France recently are bearing fruit, especially in the Alpes-Maritimes. The minister did not mention any possible new confinements.
Travel - The French government has announced that from today, travellers will no longer need a "compelling reason" to visit the UK, Australia, New Zealand or several other countries. There will also be no need to demonstrate a compelling reason to enter France from the countries concerned. The French government said that the specific health situation in the foreign destinations had been taken into account in reaching the decision as well as the British variant now being widespread in France. The other countries for which a "compelling reason" will not be required are South Korea, Israel, Japan and Singapore. The list of compelling or personal reasons for visiting other countries outside the European Area has also been extended as of today.
Cyberattack on French hospital - A French hospital in the southwest Pyrénées-Atlantiques region, has been paralyzed following a cyberattack. Hackers have crippled the entire hospital demanding a ransom of US$50,000 in Bitcoin to unlock the systems. It’s the third cyberattack on a hospital in France in less than a month. The attack illustrates how healthcare establishments have become a high-profile target of cybercriminals, especially given the coronavirus pandemic.
Alpes Maritimes lockdown - The Alpes-Maritimes will be under lockdown again this weekend and the prefect is expected to give a press conference at 11am this morning concerning the organization of the Paris Nice cycling race which was due to hold the final stages in the city this weekend. Prefect Bernard Gonzalez, has given details for the reasons which led to the authorities opting for a 3rd partial lockdown in the region saying that the “spread of Covid in the Alpes Maritimes remains worrying with an incidence rate at 481 per 100,000 inhabitants on Thursday, compared to 217 for the national average as well as a positivity rate which stands at 10.2% compared to 7.3% for the national average”. He went on to say that the pandemic is “weighing heavily on the hospital capacity of the department" and that there is an intensive care bed occupancy rate of 132.2%. He added that fifteen Covid patients have already been transferred to other regions of France since January 25th, with five additional transfers of patients this week.
Lockdown measures - The lockdown means that circulating outside of your home is prohibited between 6am and 6pm Saturday and Sunday (note that this is in addition to the 6pm to 6am curfew), except for compelling reasons which are detailed on the attestation form. Practicing a physical activity remains limited to one hour, within a radius of five kilometers despite the mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi suggesting to the prefect on Thursday that it be extended to 3 hours.
Meanwhile the Monaco government has said that it recommends not going to the Alpes-Maritimes during this weekend’s lockdown except for compelling reasons. A PCR test is required for Monaco residents who visit the Alpes-Maritimes or Var Departments for a period of more than 24 hours. For all trips beyond the Alpes-Maritimes or Var Departments, a PCR test of less than 72 hours is required.
In other news
Stabbing in Nice - A 16-year-old teenager has been stabbed in Nice and is suffering serious injuries. The incident happened at around 7pm on Thursday evening on Rue Barla in the port district of the city. The victim was taken to hospital in a state of absolute emergency. An investigation has been opened to determine the circumstances of the attack.
Coast road in Antibes closed to vehicles on Sunday - With a third weekend of lockdown announced for the Alpes Maritimes. The mayor of Antibes has announced that the coast road between the Fort-Carré in Antibes and the Siesta at the limit with the town of Villeneuve Loubet will again be closed to vehicles and reserved for pedestrians only on Sunday 14th March from 8am to 12pm with the possibility of accessing the beaches.
Food trucks - Meanwhile the Department of the Alpes-Maritimes is taking applications for food trucks to be stationed on the RD6098 coast road in Antibes. There are seven potential places for the years 2021 to 2023, with a minimum period of 4 months of occupation between April 1st and October 31st.
Individual donates 40,000 euros to French state - An individual has donated 40,000 euros to the French State "to reduce the public deficit". Published in the "Official Journal" on Thursday 11th March, in the section dedicated to the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Recovery it read that “the amount of forty thousand euros (40,000.00 euros), has been paid by check dated January 15th 2021, in order to reduce the public deficit of the State by Mr. Michel FACHE ". Who is M.Michel Fache? It’s impossible to say, due to tax secrecy.
Paris-Nice – Congratulations to cyclist Sam Bennett who has claimed an authoritative victory on stage 5 of the Paris-Nice on Thursday. Already a winner on the opening day the Irishman continued his fine start to 2021. Today stage six will take place from Brignoles to Biot.
President Biden has signed into law the new 1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus relief bill that aims to help Americans impacted by the pandemic. The bill includes payments of 1,400 dollars to most citizens as well as extension of unemployment benefits and a child tax credit that’s expected to lift millions of people out of poverty. The package is largely backed by the American public with a Pew Research Center poll finding that 70 percent of adults approve of the measures including 41 percent of Republican voters. Mr Biden has initially planned to sign the bill today but it was pushed up the agenda after Congress gave approval more quickly than expected. The bill also includes payments of 350 billion dollars to local and state governments, 130 billion to help schools reopen, 49 billion for expanded coronavirus testing and research and 14 billion for vaccine distribution. The White House says that payments to American citizens will start before the end of the month with all those earning up to 75,000 dollars getting 1,400 dollars.
Oil prices have eased this morning but are still hovering near 70 dollars as production cuts by major producers constrain supply. Optimism about a recovery in demand is also helping to support prices with forecasts of a sizeable increase in the second half of the year. Brent Crude was trading at 69 dollars 52 a little earlier this morning with West Texas Intermediate at 65 dollars 83. Front-month Brent is on track to post weekly gains for the 8th week after touching a 13 month high on Monday following attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. Sentiment has also been boosted by Opec’s decision earlier this month to largely hold off production cuts in April.
The UK is to hold off on post-Brexit checks on some EU goods coming into Great Britain for another six months in order to give businesses more time to prepare. The British government says that the new timetable will help firms recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. The requirement for health certificates for EU imports of products including milk and meat will now be pushed back from next month until October. In person inspections on animal products which were due to start in July have also been pushed back until January 2022.
Football - It was a pretty good night for the British clubs playing in the Europa League last night. Arsenal won their round of 16 first leg tie 3-1 away at Olympiakos while Spurs were 2-0 winners over Dinamo Zagreb. Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw at home by AC Milan and Rangers drew 1-1 at Slavia Prague.
In the English Premier League this weekend, there’s one game tonight with Newcastle at home to Aston Villa. On Saturday Leeds play Chelsea. Crystal Palace host West Brom. Everton play Burnley and Fulham host Manchester City. On Sunday Southampton play Brighton. Leicester play Sheffield United. Arsenal face north London rivals Spurs and Manchester United play West Ham. Wolves play Liverpool on Monday.
Rugby Union - The penultimate round of the 6 Nations Championship is being played this weekend. Italy play Wales on Saturday at 3.15 and England play France at 5.45. Both Wales and France can still do the Grand Slam as long as they win tomorrow. Scotland play Ireland on Sunday.
There’s one game in the Gallagher Premiership tonight. Bristol play Wasps while in the Guinness Pro 14 Zebre play Leinster. Glasgow Warriors host Opsreys and Munster play Scarlets.
Formula 1 - Pre season testing starts in Bahrain today as the teams start to fine tune cars for the coming campaign. This year, there’s only one three day session with Bahrain taking over testing from Barcelona. The opening Grand Prix of the season will be in Bahrain on the 28th March.
Tennis - Roger Federer is out of the Qatar Open. The 39-year-old lost his second match following his return to the sport after a 14 month layoff. He lost in three sets in the quarter finals to Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.
Golf - Sergio Garcia leads following the first round of the Players Championship at Sawgrass, Florida. The Spaniard eagled the final hole to reach 7 under par and lead by two shots from Brian Harman of the United States. Rory McIlroy had a nightmare first round as he slumped to a 7 over par 79 which included a quadruple-bogey 8 after he found the water twice at the 18th.
Clear skies with moderate to strong south westerly winds. Top temperature 19 degrees. Overnight lows of 9-11 degrees with clear skies.
The weekend - Mainly fine with highs of 16-18 degrees but remaining windy from the north west.