French and Riviera News Friday January 21st 2022

News

Covid Restrictions - The French Prime Minister Jean Castex and the Health Minister Olivier Veran have announced a timetable for the easing of coronavirus restrictions but stressing that the pandemic is far from over. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday evening, Mr Castex said that it was thanks to the vaccine programme and the health pass that people had been able to celebrate Christmas and the New Year “practically as normal” which he said was not the case in many neighbouring European countries. Mr Veran said that although cases of the omicron variant are still growing, admissions to intensive care units in hospitals had fallen by 15 percent which he said was “encouraging”.

The new timeline is intended to give the public a “perspective” on how the fight against the virus is progressing and when a more normal way of life can be restored. On the 2nd of February, mask wearing outdoors will be scrapped and there will be an end to a limit on the number of people entering public buildings. Home working will still be recommended but not compulsory. On the 16th of February, nightclubs will be allowed to reopen and consumption of food and drink will be allowed again in sports stadiums, cinemas and on public transport. Customers in bars will also be allowed to consume drinks standing up at the counter. The new health passport will come into force next Monday and Mr Castex said that it was for this reason that many other restrictions would be lifted.

Inflation transfers - Government bank transfers for those who qualify have started in a bid to ease financial hardship caused by rising fuel prices and other inflationary pressures. With the price of petrol at record high levels, some 3 million french people are being handed a 100 Euro cash benefit from the government. The country’s 2.37 million unemployed will receive their money starting on January the 25th while those on minimum RSA benefit, housing benefit, adult handicap benefit and students who don’t qualify for a grant are getting the money now.

Electricity prices - The government spokesman Gabriel Attal has confirmed that electricity prices will not rise by more than 4 percent in 2022. Mr Attal said that the government would honour the promise made by the Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire last week which will cost the public finances an estimated 8 billion euros. The French government holds an 84 percent stake in the country’s electricity supplier EDF with the company complaining that it will cost it between 7.7 and 8.4 billion euros at current market prices. Some reports say that consumers would have seen their bills increase by 45 percent from February if the government hadn’t stepped in.

Asylum claims - The French Interior Ministry has published figures for asylum claims in 2021 which show a 28.3 percent increase on 2020. The Ministry says there were 104,000 initial claims for asylum last year, still well below numbers asking to be allowed to remain in France before the pandemic struck. Immigration is set to play a major part in the French presidential election campaign with most political parties shifting towards the right with promises to limit numbers and impose further restrictions on benefits.

Train accident - Rail traffic in and out of Toulon has been seriously disrupted after a woman was hit by a train. Reports say that the victim was on the track between the rails as a train was coming into the station and the driver was unable to stop in time. Police are investigating and the woman who’s described as being in a critical condition has been airlifted to Toulon Hospital.

Var victim - The 79-year-old woman who was murdered in southern Morocco last weekend was from Le Muy in the Var. Christiane Fourret, a mother of three lived for six months of the year in Le Muy and spent the rest of her time in Morocco where she was an experienced traveller. Madame Fourret was stabbed to death in a market in the southern Moroccan town of Tiznet by a 31-year-old man who’s now in custody. Both Moroccan and French investigators have opened a terrorist probe. The man in custody is also a suspect in the brutal attack on a Belgian tourist. Fortunately, he survived and is expected to make a full recovery.

Theatre doomed? - The head of the French Architecture and Buildings office has given the green light for the demolition of the National Theatre in Nice. The demolition has been the subject of heated debate and both local and national level with several politicians including MP Eric Ciotti and the socialist Patrick Allemand firmly opposed to the move. The Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi wants the theatre demolished to pursue his green agenda for the city and Luc Albouy from the National Architecture and Buildings Office has backed the plan. He concedes that the building is relatively recent and was designed by the renowned architect Yves Bayard but the interests of urban planning for the 21st century supersede the architectural merits of a building constructed in the 1980s. Mr Albouy went on to say that the demolitions of the old bus station and the nearby commercial gallery and rooftop car park had helped to improve quality of life for residents and pulling down the theatre building was the next logical development.

Tree planting - The president of the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur regional assembly has pledged to plant 5 million trees in the territory between now and 2028. Speaking in Marseille on Thursday, Renaud Muselier said that he had promised 3 million extra trees would be planted as part of his re-election campaign but he was increasing the number to 5 million as part of plans to combat climate change and improve the environment. Mr Muselier said that with climate scientists forecasting a dangerous increase in temperatures in the Mediterranean region over the coming years, it was vital to step up to the challenge and plant as many trees as possible to absorb more carbon dioxide. The region will work with the French National Forestry Office to ensure that the right variety of trees is planted to fit the natural environment.

Business

Sales of US homes tumbled in December as higher prices amid record low inventory continued to shut out first time buyers. The US National Association of Realtors says that existing home sales dropped by 4.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.18 million units in December. Sales fell across all regions amid a record backlog of houses authorised for construction but not yet started. Higher material costs including concrete are hampering construction and a near doubling of duties on imported Canadian softwood lumber to 17.9 percent from 9 percent after a review of anti-dumping regulations is adding to problems. Demand for housing is being fuelled by individuals and investors who want to renovate and then resell to take advantage of the buoyant market. However, rising mortgage costs, higher prices and supply constraints could make home purchases less affordable this year.

The former government minister Francois Baroin has been appointed as the new president of Barclays Bank France. Mr Baroin, who’s the Mayor of Troyes has had several ministerial roles in French governments including at the Interior, Budget and Economy and Finance briefs. He’s been advising Barclays France since 2018 and is described by Francesco Ceccato, the PDG of Barclays Europe as “the ideal candidate for the job”. Mr Baroin will be charged with increasing Barclays France expansion and business activity and developing relations with clients. Barclays France currently employs around 300 people and is active in business and investment banking as well as financing and private banking.

U.K. bankers are being told to return to their desks after the government scrapped its work-from-home guidance for England on Wednesday. Big banks, insurers and advertising firms are all calling staff back to offices although some flexible working arrangements will remain in place. Business leaders say that city centres which have been hard hit by coronavirus will get a welcome boost but some think that the move is premature. HSBC started calling staff back in on Thursday and Citigroup and Goldman Sachs are set to follow. Mandatory face coverings in public places and Covid passports will both be scrapped from next Thursday.

Sport

Tennis - It’s day 5 of the Australian Open in Melbourne with British hopes all but over after Andy Murray and Emma Radacanu were both knocked out in round 2. Murray couldn’t repeat his first round heroics as he went down in straight sets to Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel and Radacanu who was suffering with a blister on her hand was knocked out in three sets by Danka Kovinic.

Today so far, there have been second round wins for Arnya Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek but the two time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza is out-beaten in straight sets by Alize Cornet of France.

In the men’s event, Daniiil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are both safely into round three but Grigor Dimitrov is out after losing to Benoit Paire of France.

Football - Liverpool have set up a League Cup final date with Chelsea at Wembley after beating Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates in last night’s semi final second leg to take the tie 2-0 on aggregate.

In the English Premier League this weekend Watford host Norwich tonight.

On Saturday Everton play Aston Villa. Brentford host Wolves. Leeds play Newcastle. Manchester United play West Ham and Southampton host Manchester City. On Sunday Arsenal play Burnley. Crystal Palace host Liverpool. Leicester play Brighton and Chelsea play Spurs.

Cricket - South Africa are hosting India in the first one day international in Paarl today. The series comes after the host won the three match Test series 2-1.

Rugby Union - There’s one game in the European Champions Cup tonight. Harlequins play Castres in Pool B.

Motorsport - Sebastien Ogier leads the Monte Carlo Rally following a spectacular night of action in the first round of the World Rally Championship. The 8-time world champion outpaced 7-time Monte Carlo winner Sebastien Loeb in the Toyota Yaris GS after winning both speed tests. Loeb in the M-Sport Ford Puma is in second as the cars battled in the darkness across the Col de Turini. Ogier said that it had been a difficult night with a lot of frost and humidity in places with the shift to the mix of electric and combustion power in the Championship causing extra problems.  

Weather

Clear skies with light to moderate variable winds. Top temperatures 12-14 degrees. Overnight lows of 3-6 degrees on the coast and -2 degrees inland with clear skies.

The weekend - Clear skies with highs of 11-14 degrees.

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