French Prime Minister declares that “peak of third wave is behind us” - Speaking during a press conference on Thursday April 22nd French Prime Minister Jean Castex said that “the peak of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in France appears to be behind us”. The Prime Minister went on to announce that travel restrictions will be relaxed from early next month.
Castex spoke of a “genuine fall in the circulation of the virus over the last 10 days”, confirming that schools will reopen on Monday April 26th and that restrictions confining people to a 10-kilometre (six-mile) radius of their homes would be dropped from May 3rd. But the nationwide 7pm curfew will remain in place until the Covid-19 epidemic is under control, he said.
Covid figures – Thursday figures published by Public Health France showed that 5,981 people are in intensive care units with Covid, up by 22 a day earlier, the second highest record of 2021. A total of 102,164 people have died in France from the pandemic.
Legal action against AstraZeneca – Meanwhile the European Commission is looking to launch legal action against AstraZeneca for underdelivering Covid-19 vaccine doses to the EU. According to reports any lawsuit against AstraZeneca would begin in a Belgian court. One EU diplomat said the commission wanted EU member states to back the lawsuit and to say so by the end of this week. Another diplomat said that "not all member states are in agreement" on taking the company to court, stressing that their aim was simply to have AstraZeneca deliver the doses it had promised in its contract.
Local elected officials propose their end to lockdown plan - In reaction to the French Prime Minister's speech on Thursday, several local elected officials have called for an “early and progressive end to lockdown in the Alpes Maritimes”. They propose an eight-step end of lockdown protocol which would involve: Immediate reopening of local shops with respect for barrier measures; end of the curfew; Reopening from the beginning of May of all terraces for bars, hotels, restaurants, beaches while respecting barrier gestures; Reopening of museums, performance halls, sports halls and authorization of events with suitable health protocol and on presentation of either a vaccination certificate or a PCR test of less than 72 hours; Relaxation of visiting rules for people in nursing homes; Saliva tests and self-tests made available in schools and vaccination of educational workers without age limit; Expansion of the public eligible for vaccination and a reinforcement of systematic border controls.
Vaccination - France’s vaccination program continues to gather speed. 18 million doses have already been administered nationally, which will increase when the use of the new Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine begins from this Saturday. In the Alpes-Maritimes, 26% of people have received at least one jab, lowering the incidence rate to 203 per 100,000. That’s almost half the national average.
The city of Nice is expecting to deliver a record 10,000 injections this weekend alone, with a two-day marathon at the Palais des Expositions. After last weekend’s failed mega-session with the unpopular AstraZeneca vaccine, this weekend medical staff will be using the Pfizer vaccine. The injections are offered to people over 55, who are priority personnel or have underlying medical conditions. There may be time slots at the end of the day for people who do not meet these conditions, but you must have registered your interest to receive the vaccine with the city website at: nice.fr
In other news
5G technology - France’s national health and safety agency has found that 5G technology presents “no new health risk”. As the French government plans to have 5G functioning in 3,000 places by the end of 2022, the report published on Thursday shows that scientific data available to date “considers that the deployment of 5G in the 3.5 GHz frequency band is unlikely to present new health risks”.
Reports from Washington say that President Biden is planning to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans including the largest ever increase in levels on investment gains. Mr Biden is seeking to fund some one trillion dollars in childcare, universal pre-kindergarten education and paid leave for workers. The plan is part of the White House’s push for a sweeping overhaul of the US tax system to make the wealthy and large companies pay more and help to foot the bill for the President’s ambitious economic agenda. The proposal will call for increasing the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6% from 37%. It would also nearly double tax and capital gains to 39.6% for people earning more than $1 million a year. Wall Street closed lower on the news but any such hikes would need to clear Congress first where Biden’s Democratic Party holds a narrow majority is and is unlikely to win support from Republicans. It’s also unclear whether the proposals would have the unanimous backing of Congressional Democrats which will be essential in the Senate where each party holds 50 seats.
A consumer magazine in the United States has found that the auto pilot feature in Tesla vehicles can be tricked into operating without a driver. Consumer Reports engineers looked into claims that auto pilots can operate without a driver present. They tested the Model Y on a closed track and concluded the system could be easily tricked. The news comes days after a fatal Tesla crash in Texas where police believe that nobody was in the driver’s seat. Tesla’s auto pilot is an advanced driver assistance system that the firm says enhances safety and convenience behind the wheel. The Consumer Report team said they successfully and repeatedly tricked the car into driving the test track with no one in the driver’s seat. Last Saturday two men were killed after a Tesla car crashed into a tree and caught fire in Texas. The crash is being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Oil prices have risen this morning on hopes of a fuel demand recovery in the United States and Europe as economic growth picks up and lockdowns ease. Brent crude futures were up by 21 cents a little earlier to $65.61 with West Texas intermediate up 29 cents at $61.72. Markets appear to have brushed off last week’s US inventory build and are being comforted by the continued improvement in gasoline demand. However, concerns continue about India’s raging second wave of COVID-19 with both benchmarks heading for a weekly loss of nearly 2%. Several countries including Australia, Britain, Canada and United Arab Emirates have barred or cut flights from India.
Football – Leicester City have cemented third place in the English Premier League following a three- nil win over West Brom last night. The defeat leaves West Brom in desperate relegation trouble with games running out as the season nears its conclusion.
In the English Premier League this weekend Arsenal play Everton tonight. On Saturday Liverpool play Newcastle. West Ham host Chelsea and Sheffield United play Brighton. On Sunday Wolves play Burnley. Leeds played Manchester United and Aston Villa host West Brom. Leicester play Crystal Palace on Monday.
Cricket – Bangladesh are in a strong position heading into day three of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Kandy. At stumps on day 2, Bangladesh had reached 474–4 putting pressure on Sri Lanka when they eventually come to bat.
Rugby Union – There’s one game in the Gallagher Premiership tonight. Bristol play Exeter.
In the Guinness pro 14 Rainbow Cup Edinburgh play Zebre and Ulster play Connacht.
Mainly fine with light variable winds. Top temperature 18-20 degrees. Overnight lows of 10-13 degrees with clear skies.
The weekend - Mainly fine with highs of 18-20 degrees.