French and Riviera News Friday February 26th 2021


Castex - The French Prime Minister Jean Castex has expressed his deep concern at the number of coronavirus infections in 20 departments of the country and the spread of the new British variant. Speaking at a press conference last night, Mr Castex said that the 20 departments including the Var would be put on “heightened surveillance” and that a decision as to whether impose fresh restrictions including weekend lockdowns would be taken in the middle of next week. The Prime Minister warned that time would be necessary to allow vaccines to take their effect and that at the moment there was no possibility of relaxing restrictions and opening up society again. The new British variant of the virus is now accounting for 50 percent of all new cases which Mr Castex said is “particularly alarming”.

Overcapacity - The head of the Nice University Hospital geriatric unit has warned that many vital operations may have to be cancelled if admissions for coronavirus continue to rise. Professor Olivier Guerin, who’s also a member of the French Scientific Council says that a level 5 health alert should be declared and that the situation must not be allowed to reach the levels of March last year. The professor says that operations for cancers and other life threatening conditions will have to be cancelled if hospital beds are being occupied by coronavirus patients. There have already been some patient transfers from hospitals in the Alpes Maritimes to other parts of France to reduce the strain on Intensive Care Units.

Alert - The PACA region has been placed on a level 2 air pollution alert. A number of factors have contributed to the poor air quality including high levels of fine sand particles swept up from the Sahara Desert which caused an episode of sea mist in coastal areas on Thursday as well as industrial production and transport exhaust fumes. The forecast is for the pollution to intensify today owing to very light winds. Health experts have warned the elderly and people suffering from conditions such as heart disease and asthma not to over exert themselves and parents of young children should take extra care. Motorists are asked to leave their cars at home if possible and those who must drive should take their foot off the gas.

Markets closed - Nice City Council has ordered the closure of four markets as part of efforts to reduce the spread of Covid -19. The markets which mainly sell textiles are not considered to be essential and will close until further notice. Markets at l’Ariane, Bon Voyage, Charles Ehrmann and les Moulins will all close from this evening. Coronavirus infection rates in the affected areas are among the highest anywhere in the city.

Births down - The birthrate in France fell by 13 percent in January compared with the same month in 2020. The National Statistics Office INSEE says that January’s figures represent the lowest birthrate in the country since 1975 and has put the fall down to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and economic uncertainty. Babies born in January were conceived at the start of the first lockdown period in March 2020 with the health crisis dissuading couples to start  a family or have more children.

Anti-plastic drive - The French supermarket chain Auchan has started a drive to reduce the amount of plastic packaging it uses. The firm is to stop using plastic trays at its meat and fish counters and replace them with containers made from vegetable fibre. The new containers are 100 percent biodegradable and can also be added to compost. The firm also says that the switch will allow meat and fish products to be stored for a longer period of time which will cut down on food waste.

Worker electrocuted - An EDF worker has suffered severe burns after the cage that he was working in came into contact with a high tension power line of 20,000 volts. The accident happened on the route de Marchandise in Roquebrune sur Argens in the Var on Thursday. The man is receiving treatment at the Bonnet Hospital in Frejus where his condition is described as critical.

Lockdown - And if you weren’t aware or have been on the Moon, the Alpes Maritimes is moving into a weekend lockdown from 6pm this evening until 6am on Monday. Anyone wishing to go out during the lockdown will need to fill in a form to justify their presence on the roads or in the streets. Shopping for essential items is allowed and a number of stores such as garden centres, garages, car hire firms and tobacconists will be open. Exercise is permitted for one hour, no more than 5 kilometers from home and medical appointments can be honoured. Walking domestic pets is allowed and people can travel if they have a reservation for a holiday break booked.

The new attestation derogatoire has, at the time of writing, still not been published. The public is advised to keep checking the French Interior Ministry website