Cyber-attacks on French hospitals - Some French hospitals struggling with the coronavirus epidemic have recently been victims of cyber-attacks crippling information systems as criminals exploit hospitals already under pressure to demand ransoms in exchange for returning the systems to normal. The hospital in Villefranche-sur-Saône north of Lyon suffered such an attack this week, crippling computer and telephone networks and forcing it to postpone all surgical operations planned for the following day and send emergency patients to other establishments. A similar attack crippled medical, financial and communications networks of the hospital in Dax in southwestern France. National cybercrime investigators have opened investigations on both incidents.
Treatment for long-term Covid – Meanwhile the French parliament has called for the Head of State Emmanuel Macron to develop and adapt a care strategy for patients with “long term Covid”. On Wednesday MPs called for the government to increase its action against the serious and long-term forms of Covid. The text called for an “increased effort to understand and treat the illness” and its “long-term complications” and to “work with the health and scientific authorities” in order to develop an "adapted course of care" for "people suffering from persistent complications". Last week France’s High Authority for Health published its first management recommendations for people with prolonged symptoms, suggesting a “personalized” approach and a “central place” for rehabilitation.
Six additional deaths from Covid in the Alpes Maritimes - Meanwhile the Regional Health Agency announced six new deaths from Covid on Wednesday 17th February in hospitals in the Alpes Maritimes with 320 people hospitalized, the lowest figure since the beginning of February. 107 people are currently in intensive care in the department and 224 clusters are currently under investigation in the Alpes Maritimes, 17 more than last week.
16 classes closed in Nice due to Covid - The mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi has said that due to Covid, the situation in the city’s schools is “difficult” with 16 classes currently closed. Speaking on Wednesday Estrosi pointed out that 73 members of staff are absent from the 173 schools in Nice.
Additional doses of the vaccine - On Wednesday Alpes Maritimes MP Eric Ciotti called on French Prime Minister Jean Castex to obtain additional doses of the vaccine against Covid-19, stressing that the department has the highest incidence rate in France. Ciotti believes that its inhabitants should benefit from measures "at the same level" as the inhabitants of the Moselle region in eastern France, who have received more doses in recent days to cope with the spread of Covid and variants. The prefect of Moselle announced that 30,000 additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been allocated for the department, particularly affected by the variants. However, as Eric Ciotti underlines in his open letter to Jean Castex, the Moselle has a positivity rate of 6%, compared to 8.8% for the Alpes-Maritimes. 281 contaminations per 100,000 inhabitants are observed in Moselle, compared to 496 per 100,000 on the French Riviera.
In other news
Fighter plane hits electricity line leaving 400 people without power - The town of Le Castellet has been left without electricity for more than four hours after a fighter plane hit an electricity line causing damage and leading to the power cut. The incident occurred on Wednesday afternoon when two fighter planes left the air base in the Vaucluse and flew over the village of Le Castellet. 400 people were left without electricity and for security reasons the access road to the town was closed. An investigation has been opened.
Street crime - Monaco’s Director of Public Safety has revealed street crime in the Principality is significantly down, from just under one hundred cases in 2019 to only sixty cases across all of last year. Monsieur Marangoni said 2020 was a particularly busy year for the police force, enforcing Covid health rules, including 24,415 control checks between March and December.
Nice Carnival - Despite the Carnival de Nice being cancelled organisers are still marking the season with a display on the Place Massena in Nice. It includes a giant papier-mâché Coronavirus, who may consider itself the King of Carnival, but following tradition, will be burnt live online for all to see on February 27th.
2 hours 25 minutes a day surfing the internet - An annual report published by Médiamétrie has shown that in 2020 on average the French spent 2 hours and 25 minutes a day surfing the internet, 19 minutes more than in 2019. The increase concerned all categories of the population but was strongest amongst 15-24-year olds who spent 4 hours and 23 minutes a day on the internet last year. According to Médiamétrie, the leap in the use of the Internet reflects the acceleration of digitization in all areas of our daily lives, from health care to education, teleworking, online shopping, messaging and video calls. Facebook remains number one with its number of monthly visitors increasing by 3% to 45.2 million. Three other of its services (WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger) rank behind it in the "top 10" of the most used messaging and social networks in France. TikTok is in 9th place with 11 million monthly visitors, a jump of 273% but it is still far behind Snapchat which remains the network most used by young people.
Wall Street hedge fund managers and the chief executives of RobinHood and Reddit have defended their roles in the GameStop share price rally. On Wednesday, the protagonists insisted that while the market turmoil around the stock had been unprecedented, there was no foul play. Last month, the Reddit fueled rally drove massive volatility in GameStop and other shares, prompting post-trade clearing houses to call for billions of dollars in collateral from RobinHood and other trading platforms. In response, trading platforms suspended buying in affected stocks on the 28th of January raising concerns among lawmakers who questioned whether they were siding with hedge funds that had bet against the shares. RobinHood says that the decision to halt buying was solely due to the need to meet regulatory capital requirements while the hedge fund Melvin Capital Management which suffered significant losses on the short end of the trade insisted that the firm had not pushed RobinHood to suspend trading. The House Financial Services Committee will hear further evidence today with most of the focus on RobinHood.
Google has agreed to pay Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for content from news sites across its media empire. The firm said that it would be sharing its stories with Google in exchange for significant payments. Mr Murdoch had been calling for Google and other internet platforms to pay media firms for their output. News Corp owns publications including the Sun, The Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Australian. The news comes just days before Australia is due to pass a law allowing it to appoint an arbitrator to set fees if Google or other platforms can’t come to terms with publishers on their own. On Wednesday, Facebook said that it would restrict news on its platforms in Australia.
The UK’s former Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost is joining the cabinet to take charge of forging a new relationship with the European Union. Lord Frost has been given the task of maximizing post-Brexit trading opportunities and replaces Michael Gove as co-chair of a committee on implementing the Brexit withdrawal deal. With the UK now out of Europe, negotiating with Brussels and EU member states on trading arrangements will continue for years. There have been growing tensions between the two sides since the start of the year over trade disruption between Britain and Northern Ireland as well as vaccine supplies and the City of London’s access to EU markets.
Football - There were two rounds of 16 first leg ties in the Champions League last night. Porto beat Juventus 2-1 and Borussia Dortmund were 3-2 winners at Sevilla.
In the English Premier League last night Manchester City opened up a ten point lead at the top of the table following a 3-1 win at Everton while Burnley and Fulham drew 1-1.
In the English Championship Norwich stay top after a 2-0 win at Coventry. Millwall beat Birmingham 2-0. QPR beat Brentford 2-1. Swansea are hot on the heels of Brentford with two games in hand as they beat Nottingham Forest 1-0. Barnsley beat Blackburn 2-1 and Bournemouth were 1-0 winners over Rotherham.
In the Scottish Premiership Celtic beat Aberdeen 1-0 and St Mirren and Hamilton drew 1-1.
Tennis - Serena Williams will have to wait for that record equaling 24th Grand Slam title after she was beaten in the semi-finals of the Australian Open by Naomi Osaka. Osaka came through with relative ease 6-3 6-4 and will meet either Jennifer Brady or Karolina Muchova in the final.
The first men’s semi final between Novak Djokovic and Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev is being played later.
Cricket - The England head coach Chris Silverwood has apologised to all-rounder Moeen Ali for the way in which him missing the final two Tests against India was handled. On Wednesday, the captain Joe Root said that Moeen had “chosen” to leave the tour although his exit had been planned for some time. Silverwood has now conceded that the decision was England’s as part of rotation policy.
Mainly fine with light variable winds. Top temperature 15 degrees. Overnight lows of 8-10 degrees with partially cloudy skies.
Friday and the start of the weekend - Partially cloudy with highs of 14-16 degrees.
A recent study has found that most Brits enjoy chatting about what they’ve been watching on TV. 72 per cent said what they’ve been watching is high among the subjects they most enjoy chatting about. While Britons are known to be obsessed with the weather, it seems they would rather gossip about films (44 per cent), their children (35 per cent) and even their pets (29 per cent). However, 55 per cent admit they watch shows out of fear they will miss out on participating in small talk. The hours spent on chit-chat adds up to 15 days a year. There are plenty of subjects we avoid, with our sex lives the top taboo, cited by 61 per cent.