French and Riviera News Friday 1st April 2022

News

Drought alert - A large part of the Alpes-Maritimes region has been placed on a drought alert due to a deficit in winter rainfall which authorities say is “very worrying”. As a result, restrictive measures are in place including a ban on filling swimming pools or private spas, washing cars and watering between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Meanwhile the Prefect of the Var has once again called for extreme vigilance for the risk of fire. The Prefecture said that a high risk remains because of windy conditions and dry ground, despite the recent rain. The risk is over the next few days, particularly today. A range of regulations are in place regarding the use of fire in the department, including a complete ban on the burning of green waste in the open air. You can get more details on www.var.gouv.fr

Fire at Menton train station - A fire at the train station of Menton has created chaos. The incident occurred at around 7.30pm on Thursday evening when blaze broke out in a technical room at the station, triggering a power cut in the district and interrupting the train network. Passengers were evacuated while emergency services intervened and trains came to a standstill.

Major traffic jam - Meanwhile motorists were faced with a long commute home on Thursday evening, following an accident on the D6185 dual carriage way between Grasse-Cannes which caused a major traffic jam. The accident involving two vehicles, occurred shortly after 6.30pm. Two people were taken care of by emergency services suffering from slight injuries.

End of heated terraces in France - From today Friday April 1st heated terraces of bars and restaurants in France is over. The ban came into force following a decree published on Thursday March 31st. Any professionals who do not respect the ban risk a fine of up to 3,000 euros and 5,000 euros in the event of a repeat offense. Initially scheduled for winter 2020, the end of heated terraces was part of the climate bill. In March 2021 it was postponed until March 2022 due to the impact of the health crisis on cafes and restaurants.

Covid tests - The French government is reducing the price of Covid-19 tests. A decree was published in the official journal on Thursday, indicating that the price in pharmacies will decrease from 20 euros to 16.50 as from today. There has been a large rise in the number of Covid-19 tests being carried out in France during the rebound in the epidemic. According to the Ministry of Health, over 3.8 million PCR and antigen tests were carried out in the week ending 27 March, compared to just under 3 million the week before.

Two convenience stores closed in Nice– Two convenience stores have been closed in Nice following health checks. Both located in the Notre-Dame district were subjected to an inspection on Wednesday. Following the checks 100 kilos of food was destroyed and the stores were closed.

French actor Gérard Depardieu denounces actions of Russian President - French actor Gérard Depardieu has denounced what he calls the "crazy unacceptable excesses" of Vladimir Putin. The French actor who is said to be close to Russia made the comment in a press release published on Thursday. Depardieu went on to announce that all the proceeds from his three concerts scheduled for the beginning of April at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées "will go to the Ukrainian victims". The actor, who has French and Russian nationalities, obtained a Russian passport in January 2013, following a disagreement with the tax policy of President François Hollande. Since Gérard Depardieu had never ceased to praise his new homeland, Russia, as a "great democracy", and to praise Vladimir Putin, whom he notably compared to Pope John Paul II.

Cold spell - Meteo France has placed 22 French departments on an orange weather alert due to snow and ice. As this weekend is expected to be marked by a particularly cold spell across the country.

Business

Wall Street has had its worst first quarter for two years as the Ukraine conflict shows no signs of ending and the prospect of higher interest rates and their effect on the economy have rattled investors. Markets rallied earlier this week on optimism over a possible peace deal between Russia and Ukraine but hopes have quickly evaporated and on Thursday Vladimir Putin threatened to halt contracts that supply a third of European gas unless they’re paid in roubles. The United States has imposed further sanctions on Russian interests and President Biden has pledged to release one billion barrels of oil a day from America’s strategic reserves in a bid to stabilise crude prices. He’s also called on oil firms to increase drilling. Markets have been extremely sensitive to any signs of a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine while commodity prices including oil, metals and wheat have been soaring since the conflict began on the 24th of February. The US Federal Reserve appears set to respond to the crisis by aggressively tightening monetary policy which many investors fear will derail the economy.

Russia has told what it describes as “unfriendly” countries to start paying for their gas in roubles or it will cut supplies. The Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree that states that buyers “must open rouble accounts in Russian banks” from today. Putin said that “nobody sells us anything for free and Russia is not going to do charity either”. His demands are being seen as an attempt to boost the rouble which has been hit by Western sanctions. The decree means that Western buyers of Russian gas will have to open an account at Gazprombank and transfer euros or dollars into it. Although the decree has been signed, there’s not an immediate threat to supplies as gas that comes through now won’t be paid for until May. Several Western nations have already rejected the new payments system.

In the UK, the websites of many energy companies have crashed as consumers attempted to secure cheaper bills ahead of today’s massive hike in prices. From midnight, average annual energy bills have soared to 1,971 pounds with other price hikes from council tax to VAT adding to the spiralling cost of living crisis. Customers have been rushing to submit meter readings following advice that they could get a cheaper rate for energy right up until the end of Thursday. Energy UK has advised customers not to panic and says that most firms will accept options including submitting readings at a later date. The chaos has been triggered after the UK energy regulator Ofgem increased the price cap in response to  record-high wholesale gas prices.

Sport

Football - The draw for the World Cup finals in Qatar will be made later as qualified teams find out who they’ll be playing in the group phase. FIFA has been heavily criticised by human rights groups for allowing the finals to be held in Qatar but the host nation says that many of the accusations are unfounded and that the country is “football crazy”. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and Amnesty International says that LGBTIQ+ people can face discrimination and legal consequences. Some fans have said that they don’t feel that they’ll be able to attend the finals because of the strict laws.

The English Premier League is back this weekend after the international break. On Saturday Livepool play Watford. Brighton host Norwich.Burnley play Manchester City. Chelsea host Brentford. Leeds host Southampton. Wolves play Aston Villa and Manchester United play Leicester. On Sunday West Ham play Everton and Spurs host Newcastle. Crystal Palace play Arsenal on Monday.

Cricket - England will play Australia in the final of the women’s World Cup. England booked their place after thrashing South Africa by 137 runs in the semi-final. The final is being played at 3am on Sunday morning in Christchurch.

Rugby Union - There’s one game in the Gallagher English Premiership tonight. Sale play Saracens while in the United Rugby Championship Sharks play Dragons and Glasgow host Zebre.

Weather

Partially cloudy with moderate to strong westerly winds developing across the region especially in the Var. Top temperature 17 degrees. Overnight lows of 4-8 degrees with partially cloudy skies.

The weekend - Sunshine and showers tomorrow, rain on Sunday with highs of 12-14 degrees.

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