Prime Minister to hold press conference on lifting of restrictions - French Prime Minister Jean Castex is to hold a press conference this evening at 6pm to outline the gradual lifting of restrictions as planned by the government for mid-May. As elementary schools return on Monday 26th April, the lifting of the 10km travel limit along with the required attestation will coincide with the reopening of secondary schools on May 3rd. Concerning the 7pm curfew, this is expected to remain in place and could be pushed back gradually depending on the health situation in the coming weeks. The Head of State for example, plans a later curfew of 9pm to coincide with the possible reopening of terraces and cultural places in mid-May.
Concerns over health protocol in schools - Several teaching unions have aired their concerns on the return to school insisting on a stricter health protocol. Despite government plans a majority of teachers will return to the classroom having not yet received the vaccine against Covid, as teachers over 55 years old represents only 17% of teaching staff in France. The rule of closing a class after one contamination case of Covid is also surrounded by controversy as the measure could lead to an influx of classes being closed. The measure had been in place ahead of a national lockdown for areas of France severely affected by the pandemic while for others it stood at three cases. There is also the difficulty in identifying a case of Covid due to the lack of testing in schools on both teachers and students. Before the lockdown 300,000 weekly saliva tests were carried out on students and teachers the French government says it hopes to increase this number to a million.
Health authorities warn that pressure is still high in hospitals - Meanwhile health authorities in France have warned that while Covid numbers seem to be stablising, the pressure in hospitals is still high, especially in intensive care units, calling for “caution” as restrictions are lifted.
Regional figures for Covid - In the Alpes Maritimes region, the signs are reassuring despite an ever-present pressure in intensive care. The regional Health Agency announced two additional deaths on Wednesday April 21st. Since the start of the epidemic, the coronavirus has killed 1,884 (446 in nursing homes, 1,438 in hospitals).
Hospital indicators are still high but falling. There are currently 259 patients hospitalized for coronavirus and according to the ARS, the incidence rate - which corresponds to the number of people tested positive over seven days and reported to 100,000 inhabitants - is 203 which is still below the regional average of 378 and the national average of 337.
Monaco – In Monaco on Wednesday nine new cases of Covid were identified bringing the total number of residents affected to 2,422. Eleven people are currently in hospital and 43 people are being followed by the Home Monitoring Centre. Meanwhile some restrictions will be lifted from next Monday in Monaco when restaurants will be allowed to reopen for dinner service, sports activities will resume in schools, and the evening curfew will be pushed back to 9pm.
Vaccination - Vaccination using the Johnson & Johnson's vaccine will begin "from Saturday" April 24th, following an announcement from the government spokesman Gabriel Attal. The roll out of this vaccine in Europe had been delayed after the emergence of severe cases of blood clots in the United States. Its use will be reserved for over 55s. The European Medicines Agency this week issued an opinion in favour of using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, estimating that the benefit-risk ratio of the vaccine was "positive". On Tuesday the health ministry announced that in France, a quarter of the population has received at least one injection of a vaccine against Covid-19. Among these 13 million people, 4.8 million have received two injections.
Vaccination in the Var - This weekend a new vaccination campaign is being carried out in the Var to vaccinate priority workers aged 55 and over with AstraZeneca. The Zenith in Toulon will be open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Priority workers: Teachers of schools, colleges and high schools / ATSEM (regional agents specializing in nursery schools) / AESH (accompanying persons with disabilities) / Early childhood professionals - including childminders / Professionals in the legal protection of young people and professionals in the protection of children / National and municipal police / Gendarmes and prison wardens / Bus, ferry and river shuttle drivers / Short-distance drivers and deliverers / Road drivers / Taxi drivers / VTC drivers / Public transport controllers / Maintenance, cleaning, waste collection, waste sorting center, security / Food stores (self-service employee cashiers, food vendors including butchers, pork butchers, caterers, bakers, pastry chefs (including entrepreneurs).
Pharmacists receives death threats - Meanwhile a pharmacist in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin has received death threats from anti-Vaxxers. The threats were made in text messages and emails. The pharmacist has since filed a complaint with police in Menton but insist he will continue to vaccinate as it is the only way out of the health crisis.
TousAntiCovid - It is now possible to store proof of a negative Covid test result as well as vaccination status on the French TousAntiCovid mobile phone application. This comes as the European Commission prepares to roll out a health pass to facilitate travel over the summer period. This week France became the first country in Europe to adopt the electronic certification model for storing proof of antigen and PCR tests and vaccination against Covid-19, integrated into the existing TousAntiCovid phone app. The "health pass" project has been discussed for months in France and could prepare the gradual lifting of travel restrictions and access to certain places and events. However, the government has ruled out its introduction in bars or restaurants for the time being.
In other news
Climate law - The European Union has reached a breakthrough deal for a climate law to reduce emissions by “at least 55 percent” before the end of the decade – a figure that will be presented to world leaders at a US-led climate summit starting today. The agreement announced on Wednesday sets the bloc on the path to its target of becoming the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.
Nice attack - Italian police have reportedly arrested an accomplice of the perpetrator of the terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on July 14th, 2016. Investigations are continuing, concerning the attack which led to the arrest being made in Italy of a 28-year-old Albanian suspected of supplying arms to the perpetrator. Eight people are to stand trial in connection with the Nice attack which left 86 people dead. The trial is not however, expected to take place until 2022.
Yachting industry reacts to new regulations - The yachting industry has reacted angrily to new regulations regarding mooring zones for craft over 24 metres. Non-compliance could lead to a fine of €150,000 or one year in prison. Each summer around 1,700 boats over 24 meters drop anchor along the Cote d’Azur. The longer the boat, the heavier the anchor and the greater damage done to sea-bed fauna. However, yacht owners say their crews are trained in these ecological matters and it is smaller boats causing the damage. They say their job is to take people to bathe and to see beautiful places. If there are complications to their holidays they may no longer come.
Wine Auction - The Hotel Martinez is to open its doors to a prestigious wine auction. Tomorrow Friday 23rd April and Saturday 24th April prestigious wines and rare spirits will be auctioned in the salons of the Martinez Hotel. With lots at all prices, ranging from 20,000 to 50,000 euros. Many bottles come from renowned estates of Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux and other French wine regions. While the auction room will be restricted to a certain number of people due to health restrictions it’s possible to take part online at https://www.cannesauction.com/ventes/305-vins-prestigieux-alcools-rares
Brittany life expectancy – According to a survey carried out by France's national statistics institute INSEE Brittany is the only region in France where the life expectancy of people living there did not drop in 2020. The levels remained the same at 85.4 years for women and 78.8 years for men. On a national level, life expectancy dropped by 0.3 years for women and 0.6 years for men.
United States Senators have questioned Apple and Google in Washington over anti-competitive behaviour related to their app stores. Representatives from Tile, Spotify and Match also gave evidence after accusing the two tech firms of charging high fees and copying their ideas. Both Apple and Google’s app stores charge fees of up to 30% for in- app purchases. The two firms say the fees are justified to provide security for users. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s anti-trust panel is focusing on claims that Apple‘s App Store and Google’s Google Play are anticompetitive. Developers claim that because of a lack of competition Apple and Google can charge extortionate rates. There are also claims that Apple used it’s App Store to unfairly compete with rivals. The hearing comes a day after Apple launched its new product AirTags which are very similar to the Tile product which is already on the market.
Oil prices have fallen for the third straight day this morning on the back of a surprise build in US crude inventories and a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in India and Japan. Brent crude futures were down 57 cents a little earlier at $64.75 with West Texas intermediate down 58 cents at $68.77. Both contracts dropped more than 2% on Wednesday, closing at their lowest level since April the 13th. Prices are down more than 3% so far this week. Investors are concerned that the recovery in the global economy and fuel demand may slow. Both India and Japan have reported a surge in Covid-19 infections this week with authorities in Tokyo and Osaka considering imposing a state of emergency.
Tata is suing rival Liberty Steel over claims of unpaid debts. Reports say the claim relates to missed payments from Liberty Steel’s £100 million takeover of Tata’s Speciality Steels business in 2017. The owner of Liberty Steel GFG alliance is already reeling from the collapse of its main backer Greensill in early March. The 2017 acquisition made the owner of GFG alliance Sanjeev Gupta one of the U.K.’s biggest steel magnates. Tata has launched proceedings against Liberty Speciality Steels, Liberty House Group PTE and Speciality Steel UK.
Football – There were two games in the English Premier League last night. Spurs won their first game since manager José Mourinho was sacked with a 2-1 victory over Southampton and the leaders Manchester City were 2-1 winners at Aston Villa. There’s one game tonight. Leicester play West Brom.
In the English Championship last night promotion hopefuls Bournemouth were 4-1 away wins at Millwall. Rotherham lost 2-1 at home to Middlesbrough. Coventry were 3-2 winners at Stoke. Wycombe beat Bristol City 2-1. Birmingham and Nottingham Forest drew one all. Barnsley were one nil winners at Huddersfield and Luton and Reading drew nil nil.
In the Scottish Premiership Hamilton lost one nil at Motherwell. Hibs beat Livingston 2-1. St Johnstone and Rangers drew one all. Aberdeen and Celtic drew one all. Kilmarnock beat Dundee United three nil and Ross County lost 3-1 at home to St Mirren.
Rugby Union – The former Lions Captain Sam Warburton has backed Maro Itoje to lead the side against South Africa this summer. Warburton who led the Lions to victory in Australia in 2013 and a series draw with New Zealand in 2017 says being captain would suit Itoje. Alan Wyn Jones is the favourite to captain the side against the Springboks but Warburton says that Maro Itoje is almost certain to start in each of the three Tests and naming him as captain would be the right move. The Lions will play a warmup match against Japan on June 26th before flying to South Africa for the series.
Clear skies with moderate easterly winds. Top temperature 17-18 degrees. Overnight lows of 10-12 degrees with clear skies.
Friday and the start of the weekend - Mainly fine with highs of 18-20 degrees.
Recent research has claimed that hangovers get easier to deal with the older we get - and that younger generations have worse hangovers because they tend to drink greater volumes in shorter periods of time. But despite the painful experiences we've all suffered first-hand, an expert study has found that "hangover severity declines with age". The research showed that one of the biggest contributing factors to suffering worse hangovers in our younger days simply came down to drinking more in a shorter space of time.