French and Riviera News Tuesday February 23rd 2021


Local lockdown - The Alpes Maritimes is to enter weekend lockdown for the next two weekends as authorities try to bring down spiraling numbers of coronavirus cases in the department. With hospital occupancy rates near saturation and the new British variant of the disease accounting for 50 percent of all new cases, the prefect of the Alpes Maritimes Bernard Gonzalez said that he had “no choice “ but to act now.

The weekend lockdown will be in force from Friday evening at 6pm until Monday morning at 6am and covers the areas between Menton and Theoule-sur-Mer. Anyone who needs to go shopping, has a medical appointment or is taking part in a permitted sporting activity must carry an exemption form as previously required during previous lockdowns. Exercise will be permitted for one hour daily over weekends and must be taken within 5 kilometers of a person's home address. The walking of domestic pets is also permitted. Mr Gonzalez says that he won’t hesitate to introduce a full lockdown should the new measures not have the desired effects.

Masks - The wearing of face masks is now compulsory in all areas of the Alpes Maritimes. Masks must be worn in all outside areas as well as inside shops. A fine of 135 euros will be imposed on anyone not following the regulation with increased penalties for repeat offenders.

Shops - As part of the new Covid-19 restrictions in the Alpes Maritimes, shops with a surface area of more than 5,000 square meters must close, with the exception of food stores and pharmacies. Affected retail outlets will still be able to operate a click and collect service but must follow strict sanitary protocols. Stores with surface areas of between 400 square meters and 5,000 square meters will be permitted to remain open but must employ someone to ensure that social distancing of 15 square meters is observed between customers. Supermarkets will be allowed to open earlier than normal in order to space numbers of customers throughout the day and numbers of people inside a store will be limited depending on the size of the shop.

Vaccines - The prefect of the Alpes Maritimes has pledged extra doses of vaccines to help tackle the current local crisis. An extra 4,500 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine will be available in the coming days together with “thousands” of extra doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Bernard Gonzalez says that vaccine supplies for the department are now a “national priority” and that the extra AstraZeneca supplies would help to start the process of vaccinating the under 65s.

Travel checks - Extra checks at the Italian border are to be put in place as part of the new Coronavirus restrictions in the Alpes Maritimes. In addition, passengers arriving at Nice Airport will have to present a negative PCR test on flights from international destinations. More police and gendarmes are being drafted in to assist in checks at both the Italian border and at the airport.

Monaco - The Monaco State Minister has written a letter to all employees working in the Principality to warn them of the “serious” current coronavirus outbreak. Pierre Dartout reminds employees that working from home is compulsory unless tasks must be carried out in Monaco and that restrictions will remain in force until “at least” the 19th March. Mr Dartout says that it’s vital that as few people as possible are traveling in and out of Monaco on a daily basis and that the government must tread a careful path between health protection and economic activity. The State Minister also says that research shows that most coronavirus infection is taking place in family settings or in the context of meeting with friends and has urged people to maintain social distancing and take maximum precautions.

In other news today

Customs seizures - French customs say that they seized 5.6 million counterfeit items last year, a vast increase on the previous year. Among items seized were 227,000 substandard surgical face masks and dangerous fake medicines purporting to provide a “miracle cure” for coronavirus. Seizures of counterfeit hairstyling products were also among the most numerous items confiscated as lockdown prompted people to carry out DIY treatments with the closure of hair salons during periods of lockdown. Most of the counterfeit goods were sent via the post from Asian countries. Customs have launched a new programme to clamp down on the import of counterfeit goods.

Increased benefits - 230,000 French households on the most modest incomes are to receive extra state benefits to help them through the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the extra funds will be paid to single parents who may be in dispute with a former partner over maintenance for children. The family benefits payment body CAF is to take on an extra 450 staff to help deal with the changes and increase in claims. The CAF will take on the role of intermediary in financial disputes between separated couples