French and Riviera News Thursday 3rd December 2020

News 

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 president of the Fifth Republic when he was elected in 1974, at the age of 48. He made one of his last public appearances on September 30th last year during the funeral in Paris of another President of the Republic, Jacques Chirac, who was his Prime Minister. A centre-right, pro-Europe politician, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing also liberalized laws on divorce, abortion and contraception during his seven years in power. Bitterly disappointed that Britain decided to leave the European Union in 2016, he described it as a "backward step".

Eiffel Tower - A part of the original 1889 staircase of the Eiffel Tower has sold at auction in Paris for 274,475 euros, nearly 10 times the expected price. The piece of staircase was bought by a European collection after being put up for sale by a Canadian art collector. It had been expected to fetch 30,000 to 40,000 euros. The nearly-three-metre-high artefact was part of the original 1889 staircase that connected the second and third floors of the monument for nearly a century before a lift was installed in 1983.

Making culture more accessible - Art Explora is holding its first prizegiving ceremony today as part of a project to make European culture more accessible. A twelve-member jury will select three winners who will share 150,000 euros aimed at helping them to put their projects into practice. The three projects are chosen based on their commitment to bringing art to a greater number of people. Organizers say they received 350 applications from 20 countries.  

Business

Asian shares have been mixed this morning following a choppy session on Wall Street on Wednesday on the back of a disappointing US jobs report. Markets have taken some encouragement from the news that the UK has become the first Western country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine with 800,000 doses of the Pfizer and BioNtech treatment available for those at high risk from next week. In Washington, the US Food and Drug Administration will hold an advisory committee next week, while the governor of New York Andrew Cuomo has said that he expects the state’s first delivery of the vaccine with enough doses for 170,000 people to be delivered on the 15th of December. Hopes that the pandemic will soon be brought under control has sparked a risk-on rally on the currency markets with both the Australian and New Zealand dollars rising against the US dollar. Hopes of a fresh fiscal package in the US has also boosted investor optimism.

Shares in the UK’s biggest bank HSBC have risen by more than 50 percent since they hit a 25-year low in September. The bank has been under increasing regulatory and economic pressure in its key markets including Asia and Europe. However, since September, HSBC’s fortunes have changed and its shares have risen by more than 50 percent in Hong Kong and by 48 percent in London where they are listed. More than half of the bank’s profits come from Asia with HSBC saying that the market continues to perform “resiliently”. Last month, shares in HSBC rose by more than 8 percent on hopes that it will soon resume paying dividends.

Easyjet is to start charging for the use of its overhead lockers. The budget airline says that the changes will come into force on the 10th of February with customers who wish to use overhead lockers required to purchase more expensive tickets. Easyjet, along with the rest of the world’s airlines have been under unprecedented pressure since the start of the coronavirus pandemic with few flights operating and passenger numbers falling off a cliff edge. Customers who don’t buy more expensive tickets will be restricted to putting a small carry-on bag under their seat. The airline says that the changes will improve punctuality. Some customers have reacted with dismay to the news with one taking to Twitter to call it an “absolutely terrible move”.

Sport

Formula 1 - Mick Schumacher, the son of 7-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher will race for Haas in the top echelon of the sport next season. The 21-year-old has signed a multi-year contract and will race alongside the Russian Nikita Mazepin next year. Schumacher junior is under contract with Ferrari with the Italian team saying that the eventual aim is for him to drive for them in Formula 1. He’ll be at Haas for at least the next two seasons.

Football - In the European Champions League last night, Chelsea who were already through to the last 16 were 4-0 winners at Sevilla in Group E but Manchester United’s hopes of making the knockout phase are hanging in the balance after they were beaten 3-1 at home by PSG. In the Europa League tonight Spurs are away at LASK in Group J while Arsenal host Rapid Vienna in Group B. Leicester visit Zorya Luhansk in Group G, Rangers host Standard Liege in Group D and Celtic who can’t make the last 32 visit AC Milan in Group H.

In the English Championship where some fans were allowed back into stadiums last night Middlesbrough beat Swansea 2-1. Blackburn beat Millwall 2-1. Luton were 3-1 winners over Norwich. Nottingham Forest and Watford drew 0-0. Sheffield Wednesday and Reading drew 1-1 and Wycombe lost 1-0 at home to Stoke. All teams have now played 15 games with Norwich top on 28 points despite losing last night. Bournemouth, Watford, Reading and Bristol City all have 27 with Brentford and Swansea on 26.

Cricket - It’s day 1 of the first Test between New Zealand and West Indies in Hamilton. West Indies won the toss and decided to field. The home side were on 195-2 shortly before stumps.

Rugby Union - George North has been recalled by Wales for Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup 5th place playoff against Italy. Coach Wayne Pivac has rung the changes after last weekend’s defeat by England with Flanker Justin Tipurac fit again and full-back Liam Williams also making his return following a lip injury. Half backs Kieren Hardy and Callum Sheedy are both given another start with Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar dropping out of the squad altogether.

Weather

Mainly fine with light variable winds. Top temperature 13 degrees. Overnight lows of 8 degrees on the coast and 6 degrees inland with rain spreading across the region.

Friday and the start of the weekend - Overcast and wet with highs of 11-12 degrees.

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