Health situation is “critical” according to Head of State - French President Emmanuel Macron has called the health situation in France “critical”. Speaking after Wednesday’s defence council the Head of State said that “additional measures” would be taken to tackle the spread of Covid. New measures are to be announced in this evening’s press conference at 6pm.
President of the PACA region against lockdown measures - Meanwhile ahead of this evening’s announcements the president of the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region Renaud Muselier, has reaffirmed his opposition to lockdown measures saying that "no additional measure is justified for the region". Muselier went on to say that the "incidence rate is stable in the departments of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, Hautes-Alpes, Var and Vaucluse, standing at between 220 and 330 depending on the region” adding that “in the Alpes-Maritimes, which has undergone 3 consecutive weekends of lockdown the incidence rate has dropped from 650 to 450 " concluding that “it will be necessary to lift the partial lockdown in the Alpes-Maritimes, as soon as the mapping of wastewater increases".
Covid figures - Figures for Covid from Public Health France on Wednesday showed that more than 38,000 cases of Covid were declared between Tuesday and Wednesday, a figure similar to those in November during the second wave. On the other hand, the pressure on the intensive care units has decreased very slightly, with 20 patients less than the day before. In total, 4,219 patients were in intensive care in hospitals on Wednesday. More than a quarter of these intensive care patients (1,161) are hospitalized in the Ile-de-France region. In the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur 513 patients are currently in intensive care. The Covid-19 pandemic has killed 246 in hospitals in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 91,437.
Monaco – Six new cases of Covid were identified in Monaco on Wednesday bringing the total number of residents affected to 2,141. Forty-eight people are currently in hospital and 81 are being followed by the Home Monitoring Centre.
Vaccinations - Vaccinations continue to progress, despite the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Monday 15th March, pending a review by the European Medicines Agency of possible adverse effects associated with the vaccine. A total of 5,585,537 people have received at least one injection and 2,349,027 have received both doses. Meanwhile the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has threatened to restrict vaccine exports to countries not allowing reciprocal exports to the EU. She said that the EU had exported 10 million doses to the UK in the past 6 weeks, but the bloc is still waiting for doses from the UK.
Travel within the EU this summer - Meanwhile the European Commission has presented a proposal that would allow those from the EU vaccinated or not – to travel freely across the 27-nation member states by the summer. The plan, announced on Wednesday, is due to be discussed next week during a summit of EU leaders and foresees the creation of vaccine certificates aimed at facilitating travel within the EU.
The topic is seen to be somewhat divisive with several member states, including France, arguing that it would be premature and discriminatory to introduce such passes as a large majority of EU citizens have not yet had access to vaccines.
In other news
Final vote on age of sexual consent - The French Senate is to take a final vote next week on a bill that would set the age of sexual consent at 15. Any sexual act below that age would be considered non-consensual and a criminal offence. Jail terms for convictions of incest would be raised to 18 years. The legislation also hopes to avoid incriminating legitimate links forged on the cusp of adolescence and adulthood. A so-called “Romeo & Juliet” clause adds a proviso that penalties only apply if "the age difference between the adult and the minor (under 15) is at least five years".
Bitcoin - The French government has auctioned off millions of euros worth of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin on Wednesday which were seized from hackers in 2019. The auction was held on behalf of the French Agency for the Recovery and Management of Seized and Confiscated Assets, a first of its kind in France. The tokens were seized from individuals linked to the GateHub trading platform hack.
Thomas Pesquet appointed commander of the International Space Station - PACA Region President Renauld Muselier has congratulated astronaut Thomas Pesquet on his appointment as commander of the International Space station saying that it's "a source of great pride for our entire country". The 43-year-old is the fourth European and the first French person to be appointed to the role.
“Courtesy at the Wheel” week - It's "Courtesy at The Wheel" week this week in France, which aims to promote good behaviour amongst drivers. A survey has shown that 94% of French people believe that there should be more respect and kindness between road users.
The US Federal Reserve has forecast growth of 6.5 percent this year ,up from the 4.2 percent predicted in December as vaccination rates rise and government relief funds start to flow through the economy.
At the end of its two day policy meeting in Washington ,the Fed said that the outlook for the recovery in the labour market had brightened but that “no one should be complacent”.
The US central bank did not move to increase borrowing costs which had been concerning some investors with most members of the Federal Open Markets Committee voting to keep interest rates at near zero until after 2023.
Fed chairman Jerome Powell said that he wanted to see proof of a more complete recovery before altering policies.
The central bank is also keen not to change course until it sees inflation on track at around 2 percent on a sustained basis.
The risk is that inflation rises more than forecasters expect which would put pressure on the Fed to act.
The dispute between the UK and the EU over coronavirus vaccines is deepening after the British government said that it would have to slow down its inoculation programme because of a lack of supplies.
The UK’s National Health Service says that the short-term supply issues are down to a drop in “inbound vaccines” which has added to tension with Brussels over shipments.
The British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has gone as far to say that the EU is engaging in “brinkmanship” and that the “world is watching”.
The European Union is getting increasingly frustrated that it seems unable to accelerate the pace of vaccinations in the bloc while the UK wants to maintain it success in inoculation after recording the continent’s highest death-toll from the virus.
The setback in the EU has been exacerbated this week after several countries including France ,Germany and Italy halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine owing to a scare over blood clotting.
The European Medicines Agency which has consistently backed the AstraZeneca shot is to give an update on the situation today.
On Wednesday ,the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “all options” were on the table including a limit on EU vaccine exports.
And-The UK Shadow Business Secretary Ed Milliband has said that the government should nationalise Liberty Steel if necessary to prevent it from going to the wall.
Mr Milliband said that the situation at Liberty is “urgent and worrying” and that nothing should be off the table if it meant protecting jobs.
Liberty operates 12 steel plants across the UK and employs 5,000 people.
The collapse of the firm’s main financial backer ,Greensill Capital last week has sparked major concerns over the Liberty’s future.
Mr Milliband said that the government should consider every possible option to save the firm and protect jobs which he said were vital for communities up and down the country.
Football-Chelsea are through to the quarter finals of the Champions League.
Thomas Tuchel’s side beat Athletico Madrid 2-0 on the night to take the round of 16 tie 3-0 on aggregate.
Bayern Munich are also through after beating Lazio 2-1 to take the tie 6-2 on aggregate.
In the last 16 of the Europa League tonight Arsenal play Olympiakos leading 3-1 from the first leg.Spurs hold a 2-0 advantage going into the away leg of their tie against Dinamo Zagreb.It’s 1-1 in the tie between AC Milan and Manchester United and Rangers are tied at 1-1 against Slavia Prague.
In the English Championship last night the leaders Norwich extended their lead at the top of the table to 10 points following a 2-0 win at Nottingham Forest. QPR beat Millwall 3-2.Barnsley were 3-1 winners at Wycombe Wanderers.Birmingham beat Reading 2-1.Blackburn and Stoke drew 0-0 and Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield drew 1-1.
Cricket-The 4th T20 international between India and England is being played in Ahmedabad later.
England can win the 5 match series with victory today. Play starts at 2.30
Racing-The double Grand National winner Tiger Roll has claimed a 5th Cheltenham Festival victory after winning the Cross Country Chase on Wednesday.
The 11 year old ,ridden by Keith Donoghue won by 18 lengths from Easyland.
The feature race on Wednesday ,the Queen Mother Champion Chase was won by the 17-2 shot Put the Kettle on who beat Nube Negra by half a length and the odds on favourite Chacun Pour Soi who finished third.
Today’s feature race is the Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle over 2 miles and 7 furlongs.
Paisley Park is the 7-4 favourite with Sire de Berlais at 4-1 and Vinndication and Flooring Porter at 7s.
The race is off at 5 past 4 French time.
Sunshine and showers this afternoon with light to moderate easterly winds.
Top temperature 14 degrees.
Overnight lows of 5-7 degrees with cloudy skies.
Friday and the start of the weekend -Partially cloudy with highs of 12-14 degrees.
A new study suggests that taking a short break can improve your productivity during a tough working day. Researchers found that a five-minute 'microbreak' is enough to improve mental sharpness and help employees fight fatigue.
The international survey found that when employees came to work tired they took more unscheduled microbreaks.
However, stepping away from the computer throughout the day, even if just for a few minutes, helped them gather enough energy to complete tasks and improved their mood .
The team suggests making a cup of coffee or playing a game during this time to help you relax and take your mind off of work-related tasks.
People who don't take office politics seriously are more successful and efficient at work.
And employees who have more control over the layout and design of their workspace are healthier and happier in the office.