French and Riviera News Thursday 30th April 2020

No new deaths for the first time since March 19th - For the first time since March 19th no new deaths from the coronavirus have been reported in the Alpes Maritimes region. Wednesday 29th April marked the first day in 44 days that no deaths were reported by the Regional Health Agency. However, the number of patients admitted to intensive care saw a sharp rise in the region after ten days of stability. On Wednesday, 7 new patients were admitted, the largest increase since April 3rd. The number of cases hospitalised also increased slightly with one new admission. To date 255 people are in hospital in the Alpes Maritimes due to the coronavirus. Since the start of the epidemic, 190 people have died from Covid-19 in the Alpes-Maritimes.

Var figures - In the Var 3 new deaths were reported on Wednesday, 2 in hospital and 1 in a nursing home. A total of 204 people have died from Covid-19 since the start of the epidemic in the region. In the Var there has been a sharp drop in hospitalisations with 27 less than on Tuesday and 5 less in intensive care. 252 people are still in hospital the lowest total since April 8th.

Monaco – In Monaco no new cases of coronavirus were reported with the number of cases remaining to date at 95. The number of patients who have recovered from the virus stands at 58. Two people are hopsitalised, one of whom is in intensive care.

Coronavirus – On a national level and according to the latest figures released on Wednesday Covid-19 has killed just over 24,000 people in France, including 427 deaths recorded in 24 hours, on Wednesday April 29. The pressure on hospitals continues to ease, with twenty days of decline in the number of patients in intensive care and for the fourteenth consecutive day, the total number of people hospitalized has dropped.

End of lockdown - As Monaco prepares to progressively end the lockdown in three key phases from May 4th many employees from France will resume their morning commute on Monday morning. Monaco’s health minister says that while working from home remains a priority when possible, adding that the number of those working remotely has increased from 1,300 to 10,000, there will still be a large number relying on the SNCF to get to work. Authorities are currently considering options to ease the commute from France to Monaco suggesting free parking for motorists. With the local train traffic starting again at 50% from May 11th many employees are expected to use their cars to commute resulting in a larger number of motorists on the roads.

The region’s economy - The president of URSSAF for the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region and head of the Union for Business (UPE) in the Bouches du Rhône Philippe Korcia, has warned of a “tidal wave” for the region’s economy calling for small and large companies in the region to remain “united”. Philippe Korcia announced that while, over a billion euros has been made available to help businesses in the region, pointing out, that the state has guaranteed loans (PGE) to 90% of businesses as well as defer tax and social charges, he warns that we must stop lending to businesses which will be unable to repay, due to very low operating margins. Korcia suggests that if state services want to help companies then the best way would be to make exemptions from all social charges and local taxes.

Risk zones - As French authorities prepare to classify the regions in France ahead of the end of the lockdown. A colour coding system is being put in place to describe the different zones of risk. At present the regional health agency has reported that the Bouches-du-Rhône is currently classified as "red" the Vaucluse is already "green" while the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes and Var, are "orange".

Study from Pasteur Institute Paris - According to a study published by the Pasteur Institute in Paris, the Covid-19 virus which has been ravaging France may not have originated in China. The study shows that the French strain may have been circulating locally and unrecognised before the global outbreak accelerated. The sixteen-page study, says that already on 10th January, France implemented “strengthened surveillance of Covid-19 cases,” five days after the World Health Organisation issued the first “Disease Outbreak News” on a “pneumonia of unknown cause” which was first reported by China on 31st December 2019.

Survey - The overwhelming majority of people approve of the deconfinement measures announced by Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe on Tuesday, according to a new survey. The exception is the return to school. For example, the maintenance of teleworking was approved of by 93% of respondents, the wearing of facemasks on public transport was supported by 91% and approval of  the cancellation of sporting and cultural events is at 82%. However, only 49% of respondents approved of the plans to reopen schools. The opinion poll was published today by French financial newspaper Les Echos.

Masks - The French government has said that protective masks will be sold at a price of 2 to 3 euros. An agreement has been signed which will result in masks being sold through certain large retailers next week and at all large retailers from May 11. In addition, large supermarkets will be selling paper masks at cost, according to the Secretary of State for the Economy. Five million reusable masks per week will also be made available for the most vulnerable.

Unemployment - The French Minister of Labour, Muriel Penicaud, has said that 11.3 million people in France are now on partial unemployment. Meanwhile, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has called upon people to return to work after the deconfinement gets underway on 11 May. He said that returning to work activities is "essential for the French nation." The French government is estimating that GDP will fall by about 8% this year because of the virus outbreak.

Cancellation - Another major event in the south of France has been cancelled. The International Photography Meeting in Arles in the Bouches-du-Rhône, which draws visitors from around the world each summer, has been called off for this year because of the pandemic. The festival would have celebrated its 51st edition this year.

Business

Markets in Asia have followed Wall Street up this morning after US officials said that there is “clear cut” evidence that an anti-viral drug can help people recover from the Covid-19. In a clinical trial organised by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at hospitals around the world, Remdesivir cut the duration of symptoms from 15 days down to 11. The full details of the trial have not been published but health experts say that if confirmed, it would be a “fantastic result” although its been stressed that the drug is not a “magic bullet” for the disease. Remdesivir was originally developed as a treatment for the Ebola virus but had little success. Dr Anthony Fauci, the chief US medical officer said that the data shows that Remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant and positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery. He added that the results prove that a drug “can block this virus” and that the trial opened the door to the fact that we now have the capability of treating patients. The impact of the drug on deaths is not as clear-cut. The mortality rate was 8% for patients given Remdesivir and 11.6% in those given a placebo. The result was not statistically significant, meaning that scientists can’t tell if the difference is real.

The chair of the US Federal Reserve has said that the economy has suffered its most severe contraction in more than a decade in the first quarter of the year. The US economy shrank at an annual rate of 4.8% according to official data released on Wednesday. Jerome Powell said that the Fed would maintain record spending levels until it was sure that the economy had weathered recent events and is “on track”. However, he warned that the ongoing crisis would “weigh heavily” on the economy adding that the pandemic is causing tremendous human and economic hardship across the United States and around the world. Since mid-March more than 26 million people in the US have filed for unemployment and the country has seen dramatic declines in business activity and consumer confidence.

Facebook has beaten analysts forecasts for quarterly revenue and said that it’s seen “signs of stability” for sales in April after a plunge in March. The results are another signal that tech giants may weather the coronavirus-induced economic collapse better than other sectors. Revenue growth at Facebook was up by 18% in the first quarter beating analysts expectations of 16%. Advertising sales rose by 17% to $17.44 billion. The firm said that it had seen an increase in gaming adverts and steady spending from technology and e-commerce businesses which had offset significant declines from other sectors including travel firms and carmakers.

Sport

Football - A member of Uefa’s executive committee has said that the international calendar could be affected for two to three years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Lars-Christer Olsson says that it will be case of “wait and see” to assess the disruption from the pandemic including on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Uefa is hoping to complete the Champions League and Europa League in August with a decision due at the end of May. Some domestic leagues are planning a restart including in Italy and England despite warnings from Uefa officials that it might not be the correct decision.

Cricket - The England all-rounder Moeen Ali says that it would be the “right decision” for the launch of The Hundred competition to be postponed until next year. Moeen said that despite everyone in the country wanting to see competitive cricket return as soon as possible, it would not be the right time to introduce a new competition. The 100-ball competition was due to start in July and end in August but it now seems unlikely it will be able to go ahead.

Rugby Union - The Wales coach Wayne Pivac says that organising a 6 Nations tournament in the autumn would be a good idea to get international rugby going again. Wales look likely to have their summer tours to Japan and New Zealand postponed and Pivac says that players are desperate to see some kind of normality restored as soon as possible. Wales are due to host Fiji, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa in November and Pivac said that a new 6 Nations tournament would be the ideal replacement if teams from further afield are unable to travel.

Weather

Hazy sunshine with the chance of some showers by late afternoon. Light to moderate westerly winds and a high of 19 degrees. Overnight lows of 15 degrees on the coast and 13 degrees inland with partially cloudy skies.

Friday and the start of the weekend - Partially cloudy with highs of 22 degrees.

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