Covid - France has overtaken the number of Covid patients hospitalized in intensive care during the second wave in November, with to date 4,974 patients admitted to intensive care. Figures from Public Health France, published on Monday, March 29th, show a sharp increase in the number of patients occupying intensive care beds. The peak of the second wave was reached on November 16th last year with 4,903 Covid patients in intensive care. At the peak of the first wave, in the spring of 2020, this number stood at around 7,000. According to Public Health France 28,322 Covid patients are currently hospitalized.
Doctors are calling for stricter measures as hospitals reach breaking point. A Defence Council meeting with the Head of State Emmanuel Macron and the Scientific Council is to be held tomorrow Wednesday 31st March. It seems likely that the 24 regions of France placed on “increased surveillance” last week including the Var, could see stricter measures introduced similar to the 19 departments, including the Alpes Maritimes which is currently in its second week of a four-week lockdown.
Monaco – Six new cases of Covid were identified on Monday 29th March in Monaco. Bringing the total number of residents affected to 2,265. 29 people are currently hospitalized and 73 are being followed by the Home Monitoring Center.
Johnson & Johnson vaccination - On the vaccination front, Johnson & Johnson are to start deliveries of its vaccine in Europe on April 19th. This vaccine is the first among those given a green light by the World Health Organization which requires only one injection instead of two, in addition to being able to be stored at refrigerator temperatures.
Mortality rate increase and life expectancy falls - France’s mortality rate has increased by 9.1% in 2020, for the first time in 70 years, according to INSEE. According to INSS the increase in deaths has concerned mainly people over the age of 70, who are more at risk of Covid-19. In 2020 mortality in France was exceptionally high and life expectancy fell. A total of 668,800 deaths occurred last year from all causes, that’s 55,500 more than in 2019 (+ 9.1%). Life expectancy fell by six months for women (85.1 years) compared to 2019, and by 7.2 months (79.1 years) for men.
The increase in mortality has also been uneven from one part of the country to another, being higher in the eastern half of mainland France, including the Île-de-France and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. In addition, INSEE notes a drop in marriages in 2020. Almost 155,000 marriages have been celebrated, of which 150,000 between people of the opposite sex and 5,000 between people of the same sex. A historic decline greatly due to lockdown restrictions.
International treaty on pandemics - The leaders of twenty countries, the President of the European Council and the head of the World Health Organisation are calling for an "international treaty on pandemics". The signatories are the leaders of countries spread over five continents, including French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
All signatories, the President of the European Council and the head of the World Health Organization will present this draft treaty to the press today Tuesday 30th March. The treaty aims to “lead to a greater mutual accountability and sharing of responsibilities" and "foster transparency and cooperation within the international system" in the face of a pandemic.
Minister of Education shares parody of “Another Brick in The Wall” - A YouTube parody of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in The Wall" which calls for the opening of schools in California has been shared by France’s Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer on his Twitter account to express the importance of keeping schools open and face-to-face lessons compared to lessons on Zoom. Originally posted to YouTube on March 16th, the video titled "Another Window on Zoom" is a parody of Pink Floyd's hit "Another Brick in The Wall" in it parents and students are singing the song, modifying the lyrics to send the message that remote learning is no longer possible. The video however was shot in a particular context, very different from the French situation. Schools in California have been closed for a year and are only starting to reopen by district and only a few hours per week. In California, many teachers and adults have already been vaccinated, the situation is completely different in France.
In other news
Woman dies in paragliding accident - A 30-year-old woman has died in a paragliding accident in the Savoie. The victim crashed on Monday evening, a hundred meters below the take-off area, north-east of Chambéry, an area where paragliding and hang-gliding enthusiasts usually depart. Firefighters were called shortly before 7pm. The exact circumstances of the accident are not yet known. Police have opened an investigation.
Climate change - French MPs have launched a three-week debate of the controversial climate and resilience bill which is aimed at cutting carbon emissions by 40 percent on 1990 levels by 2030. The draft law contains the work by 150 randomly selected French citizens who made more than 100 proposals to fight global warming. But critics claim the bill has excluded some of the suggestions.
Mediator - The pharmaceutical giant Servier has been found guilty by a French court of "aggravated fraud" and "involuntary manslaughter" over a diabetes and weight loss pill blamed for hundreds of deaths in one of the country's worst health scandals. The drug Mediator was on the market for 33 years and used by about five million people before being pulled in 2009 over fears it could cause serious heart problems. Servier's former deputy boss was sentenced to a suspended jail sentence of four years, and the court fined the company 2.7 million euros. France's medicines agency was fined 303,000 euros for its role in the scandal.
65-year-old flees nursing home by high jacking ambulance - A 65-year-old resident of a nursing home in Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne north of Lyon, has tried to flee the establishment in an ambulance. The incident occurred at around 8pm when the resident highjacked the emergency vehicle while it was parked outside the retirement home. Emergency services and police embarked on a 30-minute chase before stopping the resident who told officers that she “had just wanted to go home”.
Rooster crowing in the middle of the night leads to neighbour filing a complaint - A business manager in Bordeaux has lodged a complaint against his neighbour due to his rooster crowing in the middle of the night. After several attempts to find a solution Bertrand Piquer finally filed a complaint, after a year of conflict with his 95-year-old neighbour who had previously promised to build a henhouse, but never did. The crowing of roosters in the middle of the night can be considered as an offense punishable by a fine of 68 euros. If no solution is found, then justice will decide. The two neighbours live in the Bastide district of Bordeaux.
Removals van causing disruption to traffic on the Col de Villefranche - A removals van has been stuck for three hours on the Col de Villefranche. The incident occurred on Monday evening shortly after 6pm when the van found itself stuck on the narrow one-way street of Rue Demontzey blocking motorist for nearly three hours.
Five-star hotel in Old Nice - Work is to begin this summer on a five-star hotel in Old Nice after the building lease was signed between Nice city council and the luxury hotel group Perseus. The project will see the former Visitation convent transformed into a 5-star hotel. In December, after several years of legal battles, the Council of State validated the building permit granted by the city of Nice to the luxury hotel group Perseus in November 2016.
Brigitte Bardot Foundation launches campaign today - A campaign of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation which will be launched today, Tuesday, March 30th leads with the slogan "Hunters, save lives, stay at home!". The campaign which will be launched across France is to condemn the “shame of hunting and the dangers posed by gun carriers". The message will be displayed on more than 1,000 billboards across France. During the 2019-2020 season, 114 hunting accidents occurred and 11 were fatal and 30 million animals were slaughtered. According to an Ifop poll published in March 2021 and carried out for the Bardot Foundation, 71% of French people do not feel safe when walking in woodland during the hunting season and according to the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, "about 50% of hunting accidents occur on Sunday, a day of rest and leisure for a majority of French people" which leads to 78% of French people, according to the Ifop poll, being in favour of Sunday becoming a day without hunting.
Global banks may lose more than $6 billion from the downfall of Archegos Capital as regulators and investors feared the episode could reverberates more widely. Japan’s Nomora and Credit Suisse, Switzerland have warned of major losses from lending to Archegos for equity derivatives trades triggering a worldwide sell-off in banking stocks. Morgan Stanley shares fell by 2.6% and Goldman Sachs was down by 1.7%. Nomora shares closed down 16.3% with Credit Suisse down by 14% its biggest fall in a year. Losses at Archegos Capital Management, a family office run by former Tiger Asia manager Bill Hwang sparked a fast sale of stocks including Viacom-CBS and Discovery last Friday. Archegos was unable to meet banks’ calls for more collateral to secure equity swap trades that they had partly financed. After those positions fell sharply in value, lenders sold big blocks of securities to recoup what they were owed. Regulators in the United States, UK, Switzerland and Japan say they are closely monitoring developments.
Shipping is on the move again along the Suez Canal after tugs refloated a giant container ship which had been blocking the channel for almost a week. Around 113 ships have now moved through the canal in both directions after the 400 meter long Ever Given was dislodged on Monday afternoon. A backlog of 422 ships could be cleared within the next four days. The Ever Given had become jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia. Evergreen Line, which is leasing the Ever Given said the ship would be inspected for seaworthiness in the Great Bitter Lake which separates two sections of the canal. Around 15% of world shipping traffic transits through the Suez Canal and the stoppage was costing operators up to $15 million a day. Shipping rates for oil product tankers nearly doubled after the ship became stranded and the blockage has disrupted global supply chains threatening costly delays to companies already dealing with COVID-19.
The United States has warned that it could put tariffs of up to 25% on a range of UK exports in retaliation for a British tax on tech firms. The charges are designed to raise $325 million, the amount the United States believes the UK will raise from US tech firms. The Biden administration has published a list of products which could be affected including ceramics, make up, overcoats, games consoles and furniture. Washington is pressing ahead with the action which was initiated under President Trump and has scheduled hearings on the list. It argues that the recently introduced digital services tax which taxes tech firms on their revenues has "unreasonable, discriminatory, and burdensome attributes”. The British government said that it wanted to make sure the tech firms pay their fair share of tax.
Football – Sergio Agüero is to leave Manchester City at the end of the season. The Argentine striker, who signed from Atletico Madrid in 2011 has scored 257 goals in 384 appearances for the club. The player will be honoured by a statue at the Etihad Stadium alongside title winning Captain Vincent Kompany and influential playmaker David Silva. Aguero has been linked to several of Europe’s top clubs in recent months with Barcelona reported to be keenly interested.
There are several more European World Cup qualifiers tonight with Wales at home to the Czech Republic, Belgium at home to Belarus and the Netherlands looking to get their campaign back on track when they visit minnows Gibraltar.
Formula One – The 2021 Formula One season started with a bang in Bahrain on Sunday and experts say that Mercedes may have a fight on their hands. The pace of the Red Bull with Max Verstappen narrowly missing out on victory is giving Mercedes pause for thought. Lewis Hamilton who won the race said that he loved every minute of it and is looking forward to more tussles with the Dutchman. There were also signs of great progress for McLaren with Lando Norris finishing fourth but Ferrari had a disappointing outing and will need to do much more.
Cricket – The hand injury suffered by England fast bowler Joffra Archer was caused while he was cleaning out the fish tank at his home in January. Archer had surgery on his right hand on Monday with reports saying it has been successful. Apparently, the player dropped the tank on his hand and cut it. Surgeons found a small fragment of glass in his tendon which has now been removed. He will miss the start of the Indian Premier League which runs from April 9 to the 30th of May.
West Indies closed day one of the second Test against Sri Lanka on 287–7. The tourists won the toss at North Sound and elected to field. Play resumes this afternoon.
Rugby Union – Scotland’s Finn Russell has been suspended for three weeks after his red card against France in last Friday’s Six Nations victory in Paris. The fly-half was sent off in the 70th minute of the match for leading with the forearm into the neck area of Brice Dulin. He will now miss Racing 92’s game against Edinburgh in the Champions Cup on Sunday. The ban could have been for six weeks but the disciplinary committee said they had been impressed with Mr Russell’s prompt acceptance that his actions had constituted foul play.
Clear skies with light variable winds. Top temperature 18-21 degrees. Overnight lows of 11-13 degrees with clear skies.
Wednesday and Thursday - Clear skies with highs of 18-22 degrees.
A new study has revealed that music triggers the same reward centre in the brain as alcohol and cocaine. Neuroscientists in Canada focused on the effect of pop music in the brain using magnetic imaging and 'transcranial magnetic stimulation'. The experts found that stimulating nerve cells in the brain's reward pathway led to enhanced music-induced pleasure and motivation in participants. The study concludes that communication between the brain's auditory and reward circuits is the reason why humans find music rewarding.