French and Riviera News Friday 22nd January 2021

News

First patient transferred from Antibes to Marseille - As intensive care services in the Alpes Maritimes are on the verge of saturation, a first Covid patient from the hospital in Antibes has been transferred by helicopter, to a hospital in Marseille. With 96.6% of intensive care unit beds occupied in the region’s hospitals, more patients are likely to be transferred to the Bouches du Rhone region with reports of two other patients possibly being transferred today. On Thursday five additional deaths from Covid were declared in the Alpes Maritimes region according to the Regional Health Agency and in total 84 people are in intensive care, the highest number since April 8th.

British variant - French Health Minister Olivier Veran has said that if the so-called British variant of the coronavirus increases "significantly" then a new lockdown would "probably become an absolute necessity”. Meanwhile a survey carried out by the Cerballiance group has shown that the British variant is already two to three times more present in the Alpes Maritimes than in the rest of France. The study carried out on January 7th and 8th, analyzed 300 positive PCR test results recorded over 36 hours in an area ranging from Toulon to Menton.

Classes continue to close in the region due to Covid – The Roland Garros college in Cannes has become the latest establishment to announce the closure of a class due to Covid cases. This week students of a class at the Lycée Masséna were asked to stay at home due to Covid cases. So far in the Alpes Maritimes ten classes and three establishments have been closed.

Baccalaureate exams cancelled in favour of continuous testing – Meanwhile France’s Education Minister Jean Michel Blanquer, has confirmed that the baccalaureate exams scheduled for March will be cancelled in favour of continuous testing. In a letter addressed to French teachers, the minister explained that taking into account the current health crisis the “evaluation will not be done through tests but on the basis of averages over the last three terms as well as teacher assessments”.

Macron promises measures to help university students - And following protests in which students in France called for more help to tackle loneliness and financial problems, French President Emmanuel Macron has promised all university students two meals a day for one euro to help them cope during lockdown. Speaking at a meeting with students in Paris on Thursday, Macron said "We must be able to provide better support”. The government said it would also provide subsidies to pay for counselling and other mental health services.

PCR Covid test for all European travelers arriving in France - A PCR Covid test will be mandatory for all European travellers arriving in France from midnight on Sunday. The measure will only be exempt for frontier workers and land transport. France is stepping up its controls along with the European Union to fight against the spread of variants of the coronavirus. The test must be carried out 72 hours before departure. The measure announced by the French President following Thursday’s European council meeting devoted to the health crisis, reinforces a measure already in place for all foreign travellers to the EU including the UK, who must provide a negative test, quarantine for seven days and carry out a second test at the end of the quarantine period.

Vaccination and masks - Speaking on TF1, France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran has announced that France will be “able to vaccinate its entire population by the end of August if the vaccines ordered are validated by the health authorities. The minister also announced a ban on home made masks, which according to France’s health authorities do not meet the necessary requirements in protecting people from possible new variants of Covid, adding that while in theory people could be fined, police are not able to check everyone’s masks and the government calls on the French to act responsibly by using category 1 masks. From tomorrow some 45 million free masks will be sent by La Poste to some seven million French people.  

Health professionals plead for a third lockdown – While the government spokesman Gabriel Attal has assured that the “national restriction” would not change this week, many specialists advocate a tightening of health restrictions “as soon as possible” claiming that the French government “does not have time to wait”. On Wednesday the average number of people hospitalized in France for Covid during the last seven days was 25,686, well above the target of 5,000 set out by the government at the end of 2020. Meanwhile according to a recent survey carried out by OpinionWay, 72% of the population in France believes that a new lockdown will take place soon with 41% of those questioned calling for it.

Weather warning - Meteo France have issued several weather warnings for our area. There are yellow warnings in force from 9am until at least 4pm today with heavy rain and flooding and storms in both the Var and the Alpes Maritimes. In addition, there's a yellow warning for those same times for icy conditions in the Alpes Maritimes. There's also a yellow warning in force for avalanches in the Alpes Maritimes. The Var is also under a yellow warning for high waves and coastal flooding from 11am to at least 4pm. Full details of the warnings are available at www.meteofrance.com

Digital copyright deal signed - French media groups have signed a digital copyright deal with Google under which the US tech giant will pay publishers for news previews. The deal signed with the APIG alliance of French dailies comes after months of heated negotiations and involves "neighbouring rights", which call for payment for showing news content with internet searches. The deal covers papers that carry political and general news.

Business

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week according to official data but there are concerns that the economy shed jobs for a second straight month in January. On the plus side, the economy is still being propped up by strong manufacturing and housing with factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region accelerating and homebuilding and residential construction permits surging in December to levels last seen in 2006. The services sector has born the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic which has impacted low-earners, particularly women and minorities. The White House economic advisor Brian Deese says that the fragile labor market underscores the urgency for Congress to act quickly on President Biden’s 1.9 trillion dollar relief package to get the virus under control, stabilise the economy and reduce the long term scarring that will only worsen unless bold action is taken. The pandemic is also affecting consumer spending as people stay at home, hurting demand. Covid-19 has so far infected more than 24 million Americans and resulted in the deaths of more than 400,000 people.

Google is threatening to remove its search engine from Australia over the government’s attempts to make the tech giant share royalties with news publishers. Australia is introducing a landmark law to make Google, Facebook and other tech firms pay media outlets for their news content. The tech giants are fighting back and say that the law is overbearing and will damage access to local services. The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says that the government will not yield to “threats”. The proposed new law would tie Google and Facebook to negotiations with publishers over the value of news content.

The BBC is reporting that UK retailers could abandon goods that EU customers wish to return with some thinking of even burning them as its cheaper than bringing them back into Britain. Retailers say that the new EU trade deal has imposed costly duties on returns at a time when firms are already struggling with the coronavirus pandemic. The BBC says that its been informed that high street retailers and luxury brands have a mounting volume of goods stuck with courier services in Europe. Since the 1st January, many customers in the EU have been presented with unexpected customs invoices when signing for goods ordered from the UK. The charges have come into force as part of the trade deal signed in December.

Sport

Cricket - It’s day one of the second Test between Sri Lanka and England in Galle. Sri Lanka won the toss and decided to bat and they got off to a disastrous start. After 5 overs, the home side had been reduced to 15-2 with James Anderson taking both wickets.

Football - Liverpool’s 68 game unbeaten home run has come to an end as they were beaten 1-0 by Burnley in the Premier League last night. Ashley Barnes fired in a late winner to give struggling Burnley the points as Liverpool’s goal drought continues.

It’s FA Cup 4th round weekend with the action getting underway tonight with non-league Chorley taking on Wolves of the Premier League. Ties to watch out for over the weekend include lowly Cheltenham against Premier League giants Manchester City tomorrow and there’s the little matter of Manchester United against Liverpool on Sunday.

There’s one game in the Premier League tomorrow. Aston Villa play Newcastle.

Rugby Union - Premiership Rugby in England has launched an investigation into a number of false-positive coronavirus tests on players. Bath had to shut their training ground and their squad self-isolated after 19 players tested positive for the virus. However, an operator error at testers Randox Health saw the number of positive tests reported incorrectly to the League. In fact, there were only 2 positive cases in 989 tests carried out across the League and not the 24 that were reported. Premiership Rugby says that the issue has caused massive disruption at clubs and a full investigation is being carried out.

Golf - Rory McIlroy leads after the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship. The 31-year-old fired a bogey free 8 under par 64 to lead by one shot from Tyrrell Hatton who had two eagles and a birdie in his round of 65. Defending champion Lee Westwood opened with a three-under 69.

Weather

Overcast with rain and thunderstorms developing. Moderate to strong south westerly winds and a high of 13 degrees. Overnight lows of 8 degrees with partially cloudy skies.

The weekend - Mainly fine. Highs of 11 -13 degrees.

And finally 

As Scots around the world will celebrate Burns Night on Monday 25th January in celebration of the life and poetry of poet Robert Burns, to honour the occasion, a haggis has been launched to the edge of space for the first time. The haggis was attached to a weather balloon and soared more than 20 miles above the Earth. Scottish butcher Simon Howie worked with space education and research firm Stratonauts to launch the haggis. Mr Howie said: 'After a year like no other, we wanted to kick off 2021 by lifting the spirits of the general public. We are thrilled to have worked with Stratonauts to take Scotland's national dish to new heights. It has now been safely transported back to the company's headquarters, where it will be preserved for years to come as the 'first haggis in space'. Mr Howie said it is hoped the mission sparks intergalactic and scientific interest in young people.

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