French and Riviera News Monday July 26th 2021

News

Aude inferno - A massive fire that’s so far destroyed more than 900 hectares of forest land in the Aude department is still not completely under control today. The cause of the fire which started in the central reservation on the A61 motorway between Moux and Foncouverte on Saturday afternoon quickly spread to the Montagne d’Alaric resulting in the evacuation of 90 local residents and a big campsite.

Firefighters from all over the south of France have been called in to tackle the flames which spread quickly owing to a strong wind. The French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin has praised their efforts and said that a huge effort had been made to bring the fire under control.

7 Canadair planes and several water bombing helicopters have been used in the operation which resulted in the motorway being closed for several hours and power cuts for people in Perpignan, Narbonne and as far away as Spain and Portugal after a high tension power line running through the affected area and supplying the European grid was turned off as a precaution.

Delta variant - The delta variant of coronavirus is continuing to spread rapidly in the Alpes Maritimes and the Var with near record levels of infections registered over the weekend. 1,104 people tested positive for the virus in the Alpes Maritimes alone on Saturday and numbers are going up fast in the Var. The previous daily record for infections in the Alpes Maritimes was 1,251 which was set on the 2nd of February this year. 10,000 daily tests for the virus are currently being conducted on the Côte d’Azur, against 5,000 before President Macron made his health pass announcement. Meanwhile the infection rate in the Alpes Maritimes has risen to 459 per 100,000 people, an increase of 800 percent in 25 days.

Masks - The prefect of the Alpes Maritimes has announced that mask wearing is now compulsory in most outdoor areas with the exception of beaches and large open air spaces. The measure is in force from now until at least the 16th of August. The new restrictions come into force just two months after the wearing of masks was relaxed. Bernard Gonzalez says that the current situation is “preoccupying”.

Hospitals - While coronavirus infections continue to rise rapidly across France, there is still not undue pressure on hospital services. Bed occupancy rates are rising again but so far, there has not been a huge rise in admissions. 35 more patients were admitted for intensive care treatment on Saturday with a total of 878 now in ICU’s across the country. 6,787 people are currently being treated for the virus in French hospitals.

Meanwhile vaccination rates have been climbing fast since President Macron made his health pass announcement. 59 percent of the population have now had at least one vaccine shot and 49.2 percent have had both jabs. More than 69.5 millon vaccine doses have been administered since the 27th of December 2020.

Pharmacy stampede - Pharmacies across France have reported long queues as people rush to get tested or vaccinated ahead of the busiest holiday period of the year. With the introduction of the health pass and its extension on the 1st of August, more and more people will be required to show either a negative test or proof of vaccination to be able to go on holiday or even enjoy a restaurant meal. Pharmacies say that they are running low or are completely out of vaccine supplies and many have been unable to keep up with demand. Antigen and PCR testing has been carried out at the rate of 15 tests per hour in many outlets.

Anti-Vax - Large protests have been staged around the country by people either opposed to Covid-19 vaccination or against the health pass regulations. Around 11,000 people took part in a protest in Paris while several thousand people took part in a march along the promenade des Anglais in Nice where police had to prevent them from gaining access to the voie rapide. Several thousand people marched in Toulon and in Marseille a television camera crew from France 2 was attacked by a small group of demonstrators who forced them to stop filming.

Get vaccinated! - President Macron has again urged people to get vaccinated against the virus. During a visit to French Polynesia, Mr Macron said it is the “civic duty of all” to maximise the chance of bringing coronavirus under control. The National Assembly has now passed the government’s health pass legislation after a marathon weekend session ended in compromise. The new laws will only be allowed to continue until the 15th of November when there will have to be a fresh vote in parliament. Police will have a limited role in enforcing the new regulations and health workers who refuse the vaccine will not be automatically sacked but will have their salary suspended.

Missing hiker - French police have asked for the dental records of Esther Dingley, the British hiker who went missing in the Pyrénées last November. The 37-year-old had been walking alone in the mountains near the Spanish border and was last seen on the 22nd of November. Forensics officers will study the records in Bordeaux along with a DNA sample from the missing woman’s mother to establish whether human remains discovered near to where she was last seen are hers. The site, at a high mountain pass near Port de la Glere has been searched but apart from the human remains, nothing else belonging to the missing woman such as her clothes and high-vis yellow tent has been found. 

Business

A report by Reuters says that global supply chains are buckling under the strain of recent natural disasters and a new worldwide wave of coronavirus infections. The report says that events have conspired to drive global supply chains towards breaking point, threatening the flow of raw materials, parts and consumer goods. Economists and shipping specialists say that the rapid spread of the Delta variant has devastated parts of Asia and prompted many countries to cut off land access for sailors. This is resulting in captains being unable to rotate crews with around 100,000 seafarers stranded at sea beyond their contracts in an echo of the situation in 2020 at the height of lockdowns. Ship transport accounts for around 90% of the world’s trade and the crew crisis is disrupting the supply of pretty much everything from oil and iron ore to food and electronics.

Meanwhile, deadly floods in economic powerhouses Germany and China are further disrupting global supply lines that have yet to recover from the first wave of the pandemic. The flooding in China is preventing the transport of coal from mining regions just as power plants need fuel to meet peak summer demand. In Germany, road transport of goods has slowed significantly as a result of the recent deadly flooding in the west of the country.

The French media giant Lagardere has denied wrongdoing after media reports said that a judicial investigation into the firm has been launched into allegations of false accounting and vote buying. Le Monde newspaper says that a probe had been launched into Lagardere in April and that a judge has been appointed to look at the allegations. The firm has been embroiled in a battle with shareholders including hedge fund Amber Capital which filed a complaint earlier this year although the dispute has since been resolved. Lagardere is in the process of transforming itself into a joint-stock company, undoing a previously arcane structure that has caused conflict with some of its shareholders. In a statement issued over the weekend, Lagardere said that it “operate