French and Riviera News Tuesday March 2nd 2021


Covid-19 deaths - France has registered 379 more deaths from Coronavirus in the past 24 hours bringing the total number of fatalities from the virus to nearly 87,000 since the start of the pandemic. 25,430 people are currently receiving hospital treatment for the virus with 3,544 people requiring mechanical ventilation. Numbers of new infections are rising with nearly 140,000 cases detected last week.

Vaccines - The French government has announced that it will now allow the AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to the over 65s. The development is a reversal of policy after the government at first said that there was a lack of data on the vaccine for older people. The French Health Minister OIivier Veran now says that the AstraZeneca vaccine can be administered to the 65 to 74 age group and that it is “safe and effective”.

Lockdown - The Prefect of the Alpes Maritimes has said that it’s too early to say whether weekend lockdowns will be a success. Speaking at a press conference on Monday afternoon, Bernard Gonzalez said that an evaluation on the success of the measures would not be available for between 8 to 15 days. 80 percent of all new cases showing up in the department are the British variant and the prefect said that a huge effort is being made to step up the vaccination programme. Health experts have also played down side-effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine as being “completely normal”. Mr Gonzalez said that police and gendarmes had carried out more than 21,500 spot checks over the weekend and had issued 1,212 fines for non-compliance with the regulations. He also defended the late publication of the ‘attestation derogatoire’ saying that putting the document together to take into account all the fresh measures had been “difficult”.

Infection rates - Covid-19 infection rates have fallen slightly in the Alpes Maritimes but authorities say that it’s too early to say whether curfew measures and the weekend lockdown have anything to do with the figures. Latest statistics show that infection rates across the department are running at 617 per 100,000 residents. More alarming is the infection rate in the 20 to 29 year age group which is running at 922 per 100,000 people. In the metropolitan Nice area the infection rate is 772 per 100,000, three times more than the national average. The data represents a slight fall in infection rates since the last snapshot taken on February 23rd. 12 patients suffering from the virus have been transferred from hospitals in the Alpes Maritimes to other parts of France.

Macron - President Macron has appealed to the public to “hold on” for “four to six weeks” before coronavirus restrictions start to be lifted. Speaking to young people attending a government training programme at Stains in Seine Saint Denis on Monday, Mr Macron said that the current laws would have to remain in force until vaccination programmes are more advanced. The French Prime Minister Jean Castex has said that all people over the age of 50 should have received a first shot of vaccine by “mid May”. The government will discuss the possible introduction of a new ‘health pass’ for those who have been inoculated against Covid-19 at cabinet tomorrow but has stressed that it will not be a ‘vaccination passport’.

School testing - New saliva tests for Covid-19 in the country’s schools will be carried out by health professionals and not teachers. The Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer says that the new tests will be used from “mid March” with a view to carrying out 300,000 diagnoses a week. The Minister said that 90 percent of parents are in favour of testing in schools. Teaching unions have said that introduction of the new system has been badly organised and that members are concerned that they’ll be left carrying the can. Mr Blanquer says that the tests will be carried out either by school nurses or personnel from private laboratories.

Guilty - The former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been found guilty of corruption and sentenced to three years in jail with two suspended in the so called “Bismuth Affair”. Trial judges in Paris said that the former President had forged a “corruption pact” with his lawyer and a senior magistrate adding that there was “serious evidence” of collaboration between the three men. The court heard evidence that Mr Sarkozy had instructed his lawyer Thierry Herzog to offer magistrate Gilbert Azibert a perk job in the south of France in return for information about a separate legal matter concerning him. It’s doubtful whether Mr Sarkozy will serve any jail time as the one year jail sentence can be served with conditions such as wearing an electronic bracelet or home confinement. Paul Bismuth was the name that the former President used while connecting to two phones to communicate with his lawyer. Mr Sarkozy is likely to appeal. He’s due in court again later this month in a separate case to answer charges of illegal fund raising during his 2012 election campa