French and Riviera News Monday 1st March 2021


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.