French and Riviera News Thursday 3rd December 2020


Strike action - Due to national strike action of some civil servants, several schools in Cannes are today expected to see some services disrupted. Unable to predict the number of agents taking part in the strike action and taking into account the current sanitary protocol, the city council has announced that all extracurricular activities will not be in service.   

Low-key Christmas holidays - According to a poll published this week a majority of French families have already planned low-key holidays this year due to the Covid-19 epidemic. The poll found 55 percent of people who usually celebrate with their parents or older relatives still plan to do so with 68 percent planning to restrict celebrations to their immediate family. The results suggest that even if restrictions are eased to allow more flexibility on travel and gatherings, many people plan to heed recommendations to avoid extended holiday get-togethers. If coronavirus cases drop to around 5,000 per day, France’s government plans to end the lockdown and impose a 9pm to 7am curfew on 15th December, with exceptions on Christmas and New Year’s Eves.

The poll also showed that health precautions tend to be taken seriously with 94 percent saying they will wash their hands before each meal, 87 percent saying they will air out their rooms several times per day and 80 percent saying they will avoid the “bise”.

Vaccine trials - More than 2,000 French people will participate in clinical trials of the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the year. 41,000 volunteers have registered with Inserm to advance the search for a vaccine against the coronavirus. Three projects will start in the coming weeks in France, the first of which will be around December 15th. Interpol on Wednesday warned authorities worldwide of the threat from organised crime groups during upcoming Covid-19 vaccination campaigns, including fake vaccines and the theft of supplies. The agency had already warned about fake Covid-19 testing kits and other medical products in July as countries worldwide rushed to secure supplies during the pandemic.

Testing - A massive Covid-19 testing campaign is to take place in Lille, Saint-Etienne and Le Havre. The exact timetable has not been released, but the prime minister spoke of a campaign around the end of the year, possibly even before.

Press conference – France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex is set to announce the French government's Covid-19 vaccination plan at 6.30pm this evening. Several government ministers are also expected to be present at the press conference.

In other news, Jean Castex has said that random border checks will be carried out to stop French holidaymakers going to ski in Switzerland and Spain. He added that anyone who did go could face seven days of quarantine on their return if ordered by the prefects of nearby departments. Several EU leaders including the German Chancellor have tried to co-ordinate plans on access to ski resorts. Reports say that the Swiss government will decide on Friday whether to impose a limit on visitors to the country's ski resorts. Locally, the Mayor of Isola2000, together with many locals, staged a protest on Wednesday to draw attention to their request that the resort should reopen on 19th December.

Mayors demand immediate reopening of bars and restaurants - An “immediate” reopening of restaurants and bars has been demanded by several mayors in northern Paris. The mayors made the call on December 1st attacking the government’s decision saying that the decree to keep restaurants and bars closed constitutes “administrative incoherence with severe consequences”. The mayors added that as many as 50% of establishments in the area “risk closing for good because of the measures imposed”.

Insurers criticized for response to Covid-19 – Meanwhile France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has called for insurance premiums to be frozen. The minister has issued an ultimatum to insurers saying that if they fail to adhere to the request, the government will support a Senate amendment calling for an “exceptional contribution from insurers”. Insurers have been accused since the start of the health crisis of not doing enough, with dozens of disputes between restaurants and insurers over cover and operating losses. Bruno Le Maire has given insurers until next Monday to act saying that he expects “at least a freeze on insurance premiums for the entire hotel sector, cafes, restaurants and catering”.

Former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing dies at the age of 94 - The former head of state Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has died at the age of 94. The former Head of State of France from 1974 to 1981 had been hospitalized several times in recent months for heart problems. "His state of health had deteriorated, and he died of the consequences of Covid-19". He was the youngest