French and Riviera News Monday 1st March 2021

News

Lockdown - The prefect of the Alpes Maritimes says that he hasn’t ruled out a full lockdown for the department. In a television interview over the weekend, Bernard Gonzales said that data from the first weekend lockdown would be examined to see if it had been effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus. He urged the public to take more personal responsibility and to follow the regulations.

Meanwhile the French Prime Minister Jean Castex has said that prefects in the 20 departments where the virus is circulating at dangerously high levels must ensure that everything possible is being done to reduce infection rates. Mr Castex said that failure to stop the spread of Covid-19 would result in a new national lockdown, a move that he stressed the government was extremely keen to avoid. Prefects in the affected departments which include the Var have been told to order police and gendarmes to increase curfew compliance checks while health authorities are being asked to maximise the vaccine programme. New saliva tests are to be put into operation in schools and employees are being asked to work from home if feasible. Mr Castex has not ruled out imposing weekend lockdowns in the worst affected departments unless there are rapid signs that infection rates are falling.

Fines - Authorities in the Alpes-Maritimes say that the vast majority of the public has observed the weekend lockdown although more than a thousand fines have been issued across the department. In Nice, some people attempted to stage a carnival event in protest against the regulations and there was a “cultural” protest involving local musicians who all had to dip into their pockets for the pleasure. Many people chose to escape the coast and head for the mountains where restrictions were not in force. Resorts including Valberg and Auron were reported to be busy but not overcrowded. The traffic situation was extremely congested on Friday evening as people flooded out of coastal areas for the weekend and a similar situation could develop next Friday. Curfew restrictions continue to be in force this week.

British variant - A large majority of positive new coronavirus tests in the Alpes Maritimes and the Var are of the British variant of the disease. Authorities say that the variant is “spreading fast” and are calling on the pubic to be “extremely vigilant” especially with the wearing of masks, hand hygiene and social distancing. In Nice the Mayor, Christian Estrosi says that “100 percent" of new positive tests concern the British variant. He’s already introduced a number of fresh restrictions such as market closures.

Covid-19 stats - 24,000 more people tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday with the infection rate up to 7.2 percent. Some 25,000 people around the country are receiving hospital treatment with 3,400 requiring mechanical ventilation. There have been an extra 122 deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours bringing the total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 86,454. Weekend figures are usually lower than those published during the week.

Monaco - Monaco authorities have been extra vigilant over the weekend lockdown in the Alpes Maritimes. Police have been checking vehicles entering the Principality to establish the motives of motorists visiting Monaco. More than 200 motorists were instructed to turn around and return to the Alpes Maritimes. Monaco authorities have not implemented a weekend lockdown for the Principality but a curfew will remain in force from 7pm until 6am until at least the 19th March.

Extra aid - The Monaco government has announced extra support for businesses suffering during the coronavirus pandemic. A series of measures has been announced to help businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors with extra aid for restaurants who are forced to remove terraced seating areas for the construction of motor racing events this spring including the Grand Prix. Gyms in the Principality will also get extra benefits which range from help with rent to compensation for a drop in turnover of more than 40 percent. The government has earmarked an extra 150 million euros for various schemes to help businesses in the provisional 2021 budget. Monaco State guaranteed loan repayments have also been extended from 60 to 84 months.

Busting loose - Two inmates from a jail at Perigueux in the Dordogne have escaped after sawing through the bars of their cell. The two, both Moldovan nationals were reported missing by guards over the weekend. Reports say that after sawing through the bars, the men scaled a roof and then made their way along prison walls to freedom. An enquiry is underway.

Home at last - Alexia Barrier from Biot has crossed the finish line in the Vendee Globe at the Sables d’Olonne after 111 days, 17 hours and 3 minutes at sea. The 41-year-old finished the race in 24th place and did extremely well to complete the course after having suffered a fall and seriously injuring her back during the race. She crossed the finish line in bright sunshine on Sunday.

Business

Last week’s shakeup in stocks prompted by a surge in treasury yields is raising questions about the direction of equities and the implication for the S&P. Investors have been moving away from energy and financials which have been outperforming for months on hopes of an economic recovery while tech has suffered after previously driving markets higher for years. Last week’s moves left the S&P 500 down although it is up by 1.5 percent for the year. The market has had a 70 percent gain over the past 12 months with many now questioning whether the index is due for a significant pullback. Equities are under pressure as treasuries rise. The yield on the 10 year US Treasury note jumped to a peak of 1.6 percent last week before pulling back. The economic recovery will be the focus of attention over the next few weeks. Non-farm payroll numbers are due on Friday and there will be increased attention on President Biden’s vaccination rollout programme.

The UK Finance Minister will deliver his budget speech this week as the country attempts to negotiate its way through the coronavirus pandemic. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has a lot on his plate and is reported to be going to be introduce a hike in corporate tax rates. Mr Sunak has refused to be drawn on income tax rates with some reports saying that he may freeze thresholds for three years. It’s likely that there will be 5 billion pounds earmarked for a regeneration of the high street which has suffered badly during the pandemic. Non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen again on the 12th April at the earliest under the government’s plans to relax coronavirus restrictions. Grants of up to 18,000 pounds will be made available to help businesses get back on their feet. The Chancellor has been forced to borrow huge amounts of money to get Britain through the crisis with borrowing up to 271 billion pounds this financial year compared with 222 billion between 2019 and 2020. The National Debt currently stands at 2.13 trillion pounds.

The billionaire investor Warren Buffett says that his “enthusiasm” for the United States and his Berkshire Hathaway firm has not been dimmed by the coronavirus pandemic. In his annual letter to shareholders, Mr Buffett assured that both he and his successors would be careful stewards of investors’ money and that the “passage of time” and “an inner calm” would serve them well. Mr Buffett has retained his overall optimism by buying back a record 24.7 billion dollars in Berkshire stock in 2020 despite shedding 31,000 people from its workforce. He hailed the US economy’s capacity to endure what he described as “severe interruptions”. His conclusion, “Never bet against America”.

Sport

Football - There were 5 games in the English Premier League on Sunday. Crystal Palace and Fulham drew 0-0. Leicester lost 3-1 at home to Arsenal. Spurs beat Burnley 4-0. Chelsea and Manchester United drew 0-0 and Liverpool got back to winning ways with a 2-0 win at Sheffield United. There’s one game tonight. Everton host Southampton.

In the Scottish League Cup Final St Johnstone beat Livingston 1-0.

There was one game in the English Championship in Sunday. Wycombe lost 2-0 at home to the leaders Norwich.

Rugby Union - Wales can still do the 6 Nations Grand Slam after coming out 40-24 winners against England in Cardiff. Wayne Pivac’s side were worthy winners although England’s discipline let them down again as they conceded 3 penalties and a try inside the final 15 minutes. It’s looking like France against Wales will be the Championship decider and possibly the Grand Slam game. In the weekend’s other match Italy lost 48-10 at home to Ireland.

There was one game in the Gallagher Premiership on Sunday. Northampton lost 23-22 at home to Bath.

And in the Guinness Pro 14 Leinster beat Glasgow Warriors 40-21.

Formula 1 - Charles Leclerc says that Ferrari have made a “good step” forward but it’s too early to say how well the car will perform during the new season. Ferrari has their worst season in 40 years in 2020 but Leclerc says that the team is working hard to fix their main weakness which is speed on the straights. The 23-year-old will drive alongside Carlos Sainz this season with Mattia Binotto continuing as team principal.

Tennis - The French star Gilles Simon says that he’s taking a break from the game because of mental health concerns. The 36-year-old was beaten in the first round of the Australian Open last month and lost his first match at the Open Sud de France last week. He’s dropped to 68 in the world rankings and says that he’s finding it tough to play in the current conditions.

Golf – Collin Morikawa has won the World Golf Championship in Florida. The American finished on 18 under par with a final round of 69 to win by 3 shots from a trio of players including Brooks Koepka. Rory McIlroy finished on 12 under, four shots off Morikawa. 

Weather

Clear skies with light to moderate south easterly winds. Top temperature 16 degrees. Overnight lows of 6-8 degrees with clear skies.

Tuesday and Wednesday - Mainly fine with highs of 15-17 degrees.

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