Covid-19 - French government spokesman Gabriel Attal has said that the coronavirus situation in several regions including the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur is “preoccupying”. Speaking after a government health defence meeting in Paris, Mr Attal said that cases are rising again in several areas including the Ile de France, Grand Est and the PACA. Ten departments are particularly worrying health authorities and more details would be given at a press conference with the Prime Minister Jean Castex this evening. Mr Attal confirmed that the government is considering further local lockdowns in affected areas but said that the Prime Minister would give a more detailed explanation. Authorities have already confirmed a weekend lockdown for the Dunkirk area.
Covid outbreaks - With 591 coronavirus infections per 100,000 residents, the Alpes Maritimes is by far the worst affected area of France, way ahead of the Pas de Calais region which is the second worst affected with 349 cases per 100,000. Nice is particularly badly hit with infection rates running at 780 per 100,000 but other towns in the Alpes Maritimes are showing even higher numbers with some villages such as Puget Theniers and l’Escarene registering infection rates of more than a thousand per 100,000 people. In the west of the department, towns including Cannes, Antibes and Mandelieu are registering infection rates of between 300 and 500 per 100,000 people.
Patient transfer - 3 patients receiving mechanical ventilation for coronavirus in the Alpes Maritimes have been transferred to Brest on the north western French coast. Authorities at Pasteur Hospital in Nice have taken the decision to transfer the patients to relieve the pressure on the Intensive Care Unit. Hospital occupation rates across the Alpes Maritimes are running at 87.6 percent with ICUs feeling the brunt of the strain.
Meanwhile the regional health authority (ARS) says that there have been 1,443 deaths from coronavirus in the Alpes Maritimes since the start of the pandemic. 307 people are receiving hospital treatment with 108 requiring ventilation. Nine fresh deaths from the virus have been reported in the Var bringing the total number of deaths in the department since the start of the pandemic to 1,316. 228 patients in the Var are in hospital being treated for the virus with 64 on ventilators.
Monaco - Monaco authorities say that they won’t be introducing a weekend lockdown in the Principality but have stressed again that the coronavirus situation is “extremely serious”. Residents of the Principality are urged not to travel into the Alpes Maritimes this weekend where a local lockdown will be in force, unless it’s absolutely essential. A curfew in Monaco is still in force between 7pm and 6am and employees in the Principality have been ordered to work from home unless it’s not possible.
Vaccines - The French Industry Minister has said that the country is still on track with its vaccination programme. Agnes Pannier-Runacher says that a million people were vaccinated in January and the plan to vaccinate 15 million of the most vulnerable people by June was still on target. The Minister denied that there were any supply problems and production of vaccines is increasing. France has been criticised for lagging behind other nations, notably the UK but the government points out that people being vaccinated are receiving two doses and not just one which is the case for the majority of people in the UK.
Disco inferno - The Alpes Maritimes deputy Eric Pauget is calling for extra compensation to be paid to the operators of discos and nightclubs in the region who’ve been unable to open since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Pauget says that 1,500 disco operators are suffering severe financial hardship as a result of being forced to close. Reports say that more than a hundred establishments have already been forced to declare bankruptcy. The politician says that the government must offer further aid to the sector to prevent more businesses going bust.
Medical leak - An investigation is underway after the medical records of half a million French people were leaked on the internet. The origin of the leak which included the names, addresses, social security and phone numbers and in some cases blood groups has not yet been confirmed but reports say that 30 medical analysis laboratories in the north-west of France are at the center of the enquiry. People whose details featured in the leaked records are being contacted individually.
Radar - The speed camera on the A8 motorway west-bound near the St Isidore peage is back in action. The camera was put out of action by Gilet Jaunes protestors in 2019 but a new up to date model is now ‘flashing away’. The speed limit down the hill to the peage station is 90 km/h.
In-Seine - The son of the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has announced his intention to swim the entire length of the River Seine. 20-year-old Arthur Germain, who’s already the youngest French person to have swum the English Channel now intends to tackle the iconic French river which is 780 kilometers long. His challenge will start at source of the River near Dijon before he passes through Paris and eventually finishes at the port of Le Havre. Arthur was the youngest French person to tackle the Channel in 2018 when he was just 16. He intends to swim the Seine without assistance for 52 days, swimming 15 kilometers for 6 hours a day. He’ll also have to pull a kayak behind him carrying his equipment. A doctor will be on hand to provide regular medical checks especially as the water quality is less than good along some stretches especially in Paris. No one has ever attempted to swim the entire length of the Seine before.
President Biden has signed an executive order aimed at addressing the global semiconductor chip shortage that’s forced carmakers and other manufacturers to cut production. The shortage of semiconductors has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and Mr Biden has ordered an immediate 100 day review of supply chains for four critical products. The review will focus on defence, public health, transport, energy and food production. The United States and other large manufacturing nations such as Germany have been beset by supply shortages since the start of the pandemic which has also affected the availability of PPE for frontline health workers. The chip shortage has forced some manufacturers to take employees off production lines and Mr Biden says that he will “take action” to close the gaps.
The US Federal Aviation Administration says that it’s ordered immediate inspections of Boeing 777 aircraft fitted with Pratt and Whitney PW 4000 engines. The move comes after a United Airlines 777 shed parts over Denver following engine failure last weekend. The Pratt and Whitney PW 4000 engines are being used on 128 older versions of the 777 but account for only 10 percent of the more than 1,600 currently in service. The FAA says that operators must conduct a thermal acoustic image inspection of the large titanium fan blades on each engine. Metal fatigue has been cited as a possible cause for the failure.
The governor of the Bank of England says that the UK will resist “very firmly” any attempts by the European Union to “arm-twist” banks into shifting trillions of euros in derivatives clearing to the bloc as a result of Brexit. Andrew Bailey said on Wednesday that the move would be very controversial and legally dubious. A report by Reuters says that Europe’s top banks are being asked to justify why they should not have to shift the clearing of euro-denominated derivatives from London to the EU. Trading in EU shares and derivatives has already been flooding out of London for the continent following the UK’s exit from the EU at the end of last year. The Reuters report says that the EU is now also targeting clearing which is dominated by the London Stock Exchange’s clearing house arm. At the moment 75 percent of euro clearing positions at the London Clearing House are not held by EU counterparties and Mr Bailey says that the EU should not be targeting them.
Cricket - England have made a disastrous start on day 1 of the third Test against India in Ahmedabad. The tourists won the toss in the day-night game with the pink ball and decided to bat. They were looking solid on 72-2 with Crawley passing his half century and Joe Root bedding down for an anchor innings but then it all went horribly wrong and they were bowled out for just 112 with Axar Patel taking 6-38. At stumps, India had reached 99-3.
New Zealand have beaten Australia by 4 runs in the second T20 in Dunedin. The home side batted first and made 219-7 from their 20 overs. Australia couldn’t quite get there in their reply and made 215-8 from their 20
Football - There were two games in the round of 16 first leg of the Champions League last night. Atalanta lost 1-0 at home to Real Madrid while Manchester City beat Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0.
In the Europa League, Spurs are though to the last 16 after beating RZ Pellets 4-0 on the night to take the tie 8-1. There are more games tonight with Arsenal against Benfica. Leicester against Slavia Prague. Manchester United against Real Sociadad and Rangers against Royal Antwerp.
In the English Championship last night Barnsley beat Stoke 2-0. Brentford finally got back to winning ways with a 3-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday. Swansea kept up the pressure at the top with a 1-0 win over Coventry. Watford were 3-2 winners at Blackburn. Bournemouth lost 2-1 at home to Cardiff and Preston and QPR drew 0-0.
And in the Scottish Premiership St Mirren and Motherwell drew 0-0.
Rugby Union - The 6 Nations game between France and Scotland will go ahead as planned on Sunday. There had been concerns that the match would have to be postponed because of a coronavirus outbreak in the France camp but another round of testing has shown up no new infections although “Les Bleus” will be seriously under strength.
Golf - Tiger Woods is awake and “responsive” following surgery for serious leg injuries as a result of a car crash near Los Angeles on Tuesday. The 15 time Major winner had to be cut out of the wreck by firefighters and suffered open fractures to his tibia and fibula bones. Injuries to his ankle and foot have been stabilised with screws and pins. He’s likely to miss the entire season.
Clear skies with light variable winds. Top temperatures 16-18 degrees. Overnight lows of 8-10 degrees with clear skies.
Friday and the start of the weekend - Clear skies with highs of 15-17 degrees.