Health situation on Côte d’Azur described as “very worrying” - During a press conference on Thursday 18th February, France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran has said that the health situation in Nice is currently “very worrying”. Ahead of the minister’s visit tomorrow Saturday 20th February, during which he is to announce measures for patients care and the monitoring of long Covid, figures for Covid on the Côte d’Azur have reached new heights with some neighbourhoods, such as the Ariane, describing the pandemic as “uncontrollable”. For several weeks now Nice has been the most affected area for Covid in mainland France.
School holidays - As school holidays begin this evening the Monaco Government has launched an appeal “for prudence and responsibility” in the face of Covid. This evening starts a two-week school vacation period. A moment which will allow many Monegasques and residents of the Principality to take a few days off. In recent months, each vacation period has been followed by an epidemic rebound. The Princely Government therefore calls for everyone to be vigilant and to act responsibly. The health authorities also insist that everyone maintain great vigilance in the private sphere where more than half of the contaminations occur during meetings with friends or family. On Thursday, 19 new cases of Covid were identified bringing the total number of residents affected to 1,835. 53 people are hospitalized and 107 are being followed by the Home Monitoring Center.
Isolation period extended - In France from Monday 22nd February the isolation period for those who test positive for Covid is to be extended from 7 to 10 days (remaining at 7 for contact cases only). The new measure comes in an attempt to curb the spread of variants especially the British variant which now represents 36% of cases.
Vaccination - Meanwhile a recent survey has shown that 6 out of 10 French people are in favour of getting vaccinated but a majority reject the idea of a vaccine passport for access to restaurants and cultural places. Confidence in the vaccine, which started off low in France, has increased by five points in the last month and is popular among those over 65 compared to those aged between 25-34. However, the government's vaccination strategy is highly criticized by a large majority of respondents who consider it to not be “effective” or “coherent”. The poll was carried out by Odoxa-Backbone Consulting and published on Thursday.
Health Minister - Minister Olivier Veran has said that the AstraZeneca vaccine will be made available directly in pharmacies in the month of March for people aged 50-64, as well as from their doctors, nurses and other health professionals authorized to administer vaccines. He said that the average age of vaccinated people is currently 72 years and the government hopes to open vaccination to those aged from 65 to 74 years "between the end of March and mid-April", depending on the number of people over 75 who decide to be vaccinated.
Macron calls on Europe and US to send 5% vaccine supplies to developing nations - Meanwhile during an interview with the Financial Times French President Emmanuel Macron has called on Europe and the US to urgently send up to 5% of their coronavirus vaccine supplies to developing nations. Macron proposed his plan to address the imbalance ahead of a G7 virtual summit of world leaders today.
Grand Prix Monaco - Preparatory work for this year's Monaco Grand Prix is about to get underway. Installation of the infrastructure will begin next Monday, February 22nd. This year there are exceptionally three Grand Prix events in Monaco because of cancellations last year. The Historic Grand Prix is scheduled to take place on 23rd-25th April, followed by the EPrix on 8th May and the main Monaco Grand Prix from 20th-23rd May.
Pre-poll voting rejected - The upper house of the French Parliament has rejected a government amendment for pre poll voting ahead of the presidential elections in France in 2022. The text, criticized by the opposition, would have allowed voters, in certain offices, to vote via a machine, during the week preceding the presidential election of 2022. The text had been added at the last minute to the bill on the technical organization of the presidential ballot.
Macron hails Mars landing - The French Head of State welcomed the landing on Thursday of the NASA rover on Mars, which is taking a Franco-American instrument on board, hailing it as “magnificent teamwork". "We are there! Here we are! #CountdownToMars!", tweeted French President Emmanuel Macron after having witnessed the landing operation live, broadcast by the French space agency. The Perserverance robot takes with it a SuperCam, a Franco-American instrument developed in particular by the CNRS and CNES.
The head of the RobinHood trading platform has apologised to investors at a US Congressional hearing called to investigate last month’s GameStop trading debacle. Vlad Tenev told lawmakers that the situation that the firm faced in January had been “unacceptable to us”. Mr Tenev said that RobinHood was doing “everything possible” to make sure that the incident doesn’t happen again. The House Finance Committee has raised questions about the fairness in financial markets with some saying that many Americans feel that the system is “stacked against them”. Lawmakers are attempting to establish how shares in GameStop were allowed to rise from 20 dollars at the start of January to more than 350 dollars in a matter of weeks. The rocketing share price of GameStop and other targeted stocks has sparked investigations into the possibility of market manipulation and conflicts of interest.
Oil prices have fallen by 2 percent in Asian trade this morning on concerns that refineries shut in Texas will take some time to get up and running again and dent demand. Brent Crude was down 1.7 percent a little earlier at 62 dollars 86 adding to losses sustained on Thursday. West Texas Intermediate was down by 2 percent to 59 dollars 31. Analysts estimate that the big freeze has shut down as much as a third of US crude production with attention now shifting to the impact on refineries. A lack of demand from refiners is set to lead to an increase in crude stocks over the coming weeks. Some refineries are reported to be considering bringing forward maintenance work normally carried out in the spring.
US insurers are bracing for a hefty bill as a result of damage from severe weather in the south of the country. Collapsing roofs, burst pipes, road accidents and many other claims are set to cost the industry several billion dollars. Insurance firms in Texas are used to dealing with claims from weather events including Hurricane Harvey in 2017. However, the latest event is unique as it’s gripped the entire state of Texas and crippled the electric grid leaving hundreds of thousands of homes without power for several days. State Farm, the largest household insurer in Texas says that it’s already received thousands of claims for frozen pipe damage while nearly half a million homes are still without power today. Commercial property claims are also reported to be flooding in with many businesses unable to function.
Football - There were a stack of ties in the round of 32 in the Europa League last night. Manchester United registered an emphatic 4-0 away win at Real Sociedad while Spurs were 4-1 away winners at RZ Pellets. Leicester drew 0-0 away at Slavia Prague and Arsenal won 4-1 away at Benfica. Rangers shared a 7 goal thriller at Royal Antwerp, coming out 4-3 winners on the night.
There’s one game in the English Premier League tonight. Wolves play Leeds. On Saturday Southampton play Chelsea. Burnley host West Brom. Liverpool face Everton and Fulham play Sheffield United. On Sunday West Ham play Spurs. Aston Villa host Leicester. Arsenal play Manchester City and Manchester United play Newcastle. On Monday Brighton play Crystal Palace in the A23 derby.
Tennis - Novak Djokovic is waiting to find out who he’ll face in the final of the Australian Open. The world number one beat the Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev in the semi final on Thursday to set him up for a record equaling 9th men’s title in Melbourne. The second semi final is between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev.
Cricket - The England all-rounder Sam Curran will not be travelling to India to join up with the rest of the Test squad because of “logistical difficulties”. The 22-year-old had been due to join the tour of the sub-continent but England management are concerned about the risk of him being exposed to coronavirus on commercial flights. He’ll instead travel on the private charter flight taking the one day squad to India on February 26th.
Rugby Union - Ireland will be without back-row Caelan Doris for the foreseeable future because of concussion problems. The 22-year-old was due to play a major part in the 6 Nations but had to pull out before the Wales game. Doris will continue to receive treatment and is said to be responding well by coach Andy Farrell but no date has been penciled in for his return to action.
Mainly fine with light variable winds. Top temperature 14-16 degrees. Overnight lows of 9-10 degrees with partially cloudy skies.
The weekend - Mainly fine with highs of 14-16 degrees.
This evening’s Euromillion jackpot is a record 202 million euros or £176 million. After a seven week rollover the amount for the first time passes 200 million euros. In the UK the biggest ever win was £170.2 million, which was a EuroMillions jackpot in October 2019. The lucky ticketholder chose to remain anonymous. According to Camelot, if the £176 million jackpot were laid out in £50 notes, it would stretch from London to the Isle of Man.