French and Riviera News Tuesday 15th December 2020

News

Man shot in Grasse - A 57-year-old man has been hospitalized after being shot in the shoulder and the head in Grasse. The shooting occurred on Monday afternoon shortly after 3pm, not far from the train station. The victim was taken to hospital in Nice in a critical condition. Police have launched an investigation to determine the reason behind the shooting.

End of second lockdown - From today, France comes out of its second lockdown with travel authorized but a curfew being introduced from 8pm to 6am. Faced with a health situation less favorable than what was hoped for by the French government, the easing of lockdown comes with a curfew. Meanwhile cinemas, theatres, gyms, bars and restaurants will remain closed.

Travel will be allowed without a certificate from 6am to 8pm after which a valid reason will be needed such as work, a medical reason, assisting a vulnerable person or walking your dog. Travel by plane and train will be permitted from 8pm to 6am with a ticket as proof. The curfew will not be in force on December 24th but must be respected on New Year’s Eve. 

The new attestation from today December 15th can be downloaded here

Emergency terminals - The Nice City Council has voted in favor of the installation of new emergency call terminals linked to the Municipal Police. It's planned to install 175 of the terminals on the streets of the city. At the meeting, the council also voted in favor of the "green network" which involves no longer used bus lanes being transformed into green areas complete with two-way cycle paths. The bus lanes are no longer needed after the introduction of the tramway.

Mobile testing - A mobile coronavirus-testing bus will be visiting several locations in the Var this week. It's in Puget-sur-Argens today, Le Luc on Wednesday, Roquebrune-sur-Argens on Thursday, Le Lavandou on Friday and Vidauban on Saturday. The tests are free of charge and you'll need to bring along your Carte Vitale and identity documents. You can get more details on www.var.gouv.fr or on the Var Prefect's Twitter feed.

Monaco - The Monaco government has said that it strongly recommends that people travelling outside the Principality take a coronavirus test on their return to Monaco. As of this Wednesday, December 16th, all students and residents who return to Monaco for the end of the year celebrations will be able to benefit from free and non-prescription PCR medical screening at the Léo Ferré National Screening Center.

From Monday December 21st, residents and employees of the Principality returning from a holiday abroad, including in France, and who wish to be tested will also be able to take a test at the same location free of charge and without prescription. Tests can be arranged by contacting the COVID19 Call Center on Monaco 92 05 55 00.

Climate change – French President Emmanuel Macron has announced plans to call a referendum on changing the constitution in order to include a commitment to fight against climate change and for the protection of the environment. Speaking to members of the Citizens Convention on Climate on Monday, Macron said that the referendum proposal would need to be approved by the lower house of parliament and the senate.

Police protest - Several dozen police officers have demonstrated at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Monday evening. The police, mostly in civilian clothes, arrived in front of the monument at 9pm to demand more resources and protest against comments made on identity checks by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Finance Minister – French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, has said that he cannot be certain that bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen on 20th January. Speaking in an interview on French television he said that he was planning to meet with representatives of the restaurant sector in the coming weeks to discuss when they can reopen and what support is needed because they are going through what he called "terrible times". Managers from the hospitality sector from all over France gathered in Paris on Monday to demonstrate against government measures in place in the fight against Covid-19.

French epidemiologist Catherine Hill warns of third wave - Finally, speaking on French television on Monday evening the epidemiologist Catherine Hill has warned that the third wave of Covid-19 is "not far away". Hill openly criticized the French government and the entire management of the health crisis in France calling it "catastrophic from start to finish".

The expert remains pessimistic insisting that the entire screening strategy should be reviewed to finally curb the Covid-19 epidemic. Hill had already warned on December 4th that "France would not arrive at the 5,000 cases hoped for by the government". Saying that the figures were no longer falling, and would no doubt increase again as 'France eases the lockdown with everyone able to travel, take transport, mix, see family members during Christmas and New Year”.  

Hill goes on to point out that in her view the “quantified contamination indicators are questionable” adding that  among the errors made, is the “regionalization of measures, the search for contact cases and screening being carried out too late, and the questionable indicators”. According to her research, the number of cases that test positive does not give an estimate of the frequency of the virus. Also, the incidence rate (number of people tested positive divided by the number of inhabitants) is in no way an estimate of the incidence of Covid-19 in the population. She goes onto to stress that "The incidence is the proportion of actual new cases in the population, not just the small number of people who test positive”.

The epidemiologist recommends monitoring the epidemic by studying the number of people in intensive care, hospitalized and dead. According to Hill, the screening strategy is catastrophic, saying that "taking into account only the symptomatic and their contact cases is a problem, we must test massively and isolate carriers of the virus, symptomatic or asymptomatic." Hill said that France “tested too little and above all too late. Waiting for the onset of symptoms (5 days), then the time to carry out the test and then the time to obtain a result within which 9 days pass. However, most people are contagious for 10 to 12 days. In this context, contact tracing and use of the TousAntiCovid application are ineffective.

The solution according to Hill is to; carry out group tests and analyze the wastewater, but also deploy saliva tests. Hill says that unfortunately, the High Authority of Health made an error in their evaluation of the effectiveness of saliva tests. Yet the method is perfect for mass screening. Even children can access it. Group tests should be carried out making it possible to notify quicker, especially for families.

Business

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator has said that a trade and security deal with the UK could be achieved “within days”. Speaking to ambassadors and MEPs in Brussels on Monday, Michel Barnier said that the UK had made a key concession on regulatory standards but warned that the pathway to any agreement remained “very narrow”. Mr Barnier said that for the first time, the UK had “accepted a mechanism of unilateral measures” such as tariffs where there were “systemic divergences which distort trade and investment”. He added that the mechanism needed to be “credible, effective and quick” and that both sides continued to work on the issue. In Paris on Monday, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen who was sitting alongside the French leader Emmanuel Macron, said that there had been “movement”. She said that the EU was “talking about a new beginning with old friends” and that “we are on the last mile to go”. A spokesman for the UK government said that it still hoped to reach a free trade agreement but warned that time was in very short supply and a no-deal outcome still remained a possibility.

The European Union is set to unveil new rules on digital which it says will overhaul the market including how the tech giants operate. Two new laws, the Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts will be announced later today. They’re expected to be the biggest overhaul to the sector for 20 years and will focus on competition and making platforms responsible for the content that they host. Heavy fines are set to be introduced for violating the rules. A key part of the new legislation is expected to address the dominance of the big tech firms such as Google and Facebook and the way that they gather and use data across different regions.

US regulators have ordered nine large tech firms including Amazon, Facebook and TikTok to hand over information as part of a review of consumer policy. The operation is intended to help regulators understand what data the firms are collecting and how the information is used, especially to target children. The companies involved have 45 days to comply. Officials on the US Federal Trade Commission have expressed alarm at how little regulators know about firms that know so much about the general population and that they expect “expeditious and comprehensive” compliance with the order.

Sport

The former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier has died at the age of 73. The Frenchman, who also managed the national side, Paris St Germain and Lens was in charge at Anfield from 1998-2004 during which he led Liverpool to five major trophies including the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble in 2001. Houllier’s last job in management was at Aston Villa but he left after 9 months in 2011 because of heart problems. Liverpool said that they were “deeply saddened” by the news.

There are two games in the English Premier League tonight. Wolves play Chelsea and Manchester City host West Brom.

Rugby Union - Ireland and Scotland will face each other in the Pool stage at the 2023 World Cup in France. The 6 Nations rivals have been drawn in Pool B alongside South Africa. England have been drawn with Japan and Argentina while Wales are in the same Pool as Australia and Fiji. The hosts France are in Pool A with New Zealand and Italy plus two as yet undecided qualifiers from the Americas and Africa.

Tennis - Roger Federer says that he’s in a race to be fit for the Australian Open next year. The 39-year-old hasn’t played since January and has had two operations on a knee injury. The Australian Open is due to start on the 8th of February having been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Weather

Overcast with rain and moderate easterly winds. Top temperature 13 degrees. Overnight lows of 11 degrees on the coast and 8 degrees inland with cloudy skies and more rain.

Wednesday and Thursday - Partially cloudy with highs of 13-14 degrees.

And Finally

A man from Scotland has reportedly been jailed for breaching coronavirus rules after he rode a jetski from Scotland to the Isle of Man to see his girlfriend.

28-year-old Dale McLaughlan was determined to see his partner despite coronavirus rules and made the four-and-a-half-hour journey by jetski despite never having driven a personal watercraft before. He had expected the journey to take 40 minutes.

After departing the Isle of Whithorn in the morning and arriving in the northern town of Ramsey at 1pm, McLaughlan walked 15 miles (25km) to its capital, Douglas.

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