French and Riviera News Wednesday 16th December 2020


School optional on Thursday and Friday - The unexpected announcement that school in France will be “optional for students on Thursday and Friday” has led to criticism from both parents and teachers. On Thursday Prime Minister Jean Castex made the announcement following the advice from the Scientific Council, as part of a move to limit the risk of contamination of Covid-19 before Christmas.

Parent teacher associations criticized a decision which is “not for parents to decide but should be a decision made by the public authorities” while teaching unions said that "It is not because these are the two days before the holidays that they are not two important days for learning."

Later in the day the Minister of National Education added that "there was no obligation for students not to attend class but that it would be tolerated as a precaution in the fight against the spread of Covid-19”.

However, the announcement is seen as counterproductive, as while education authorities have claimed schools are not a place of contamination and that all precautions are taken, the announcement suggests otherwise.

According to the latest report dated December 11th, 17 schools, out of more than 61,000, are still closed, that’s 125 classes out of nearly 530,000.

Border checks - Border checks are being carried out in Menton as Italy introduces stricter measures in the fight against Covid-19. Many wishing to shop across the border or spend the day in Italy were turned away by authorities on Tuesday as you are now required to have a "professional reason" in order to circulate from France into Italy.

Tuesday reportedly saw long tail backs in Menton as many were turned away by the Italian authorities however, some locals reported that this was not the case on the A8 motorway border at Ventimiglia which appeared to have no controls in place.

Air traffic disrupted due to technical fault - Air traffic has been disrupted at Nice International Airport. Due to a technical failure on Tuesday evening shortly after 8pm the runway was plunged into darkness, with an incoming plane from Lyon unable to land and diverted to Marseille.

Three other flights were delayed due to the incident with the power being restored at 10pm. It is thought that the incident was caused due to work currently being carried out on the South runway.

Covid-19 cluster - A cluster of Covid-19 has been declared in a nursing home in Grasse. Management has taken the necessary precautions after 25 people tested positive with more than half testing asymptomatic.

Covid-19 figures – Meanwhile Public Health France has reported 11,532 positive cases of Covid-19 and 314 deaths in the last 24 hours. 2,881 patients are in the intensive care and in total, 25,240 patients are currently hospitalized in France with Covid.

Mayor of Marseille resigns - Michèle Rubirola the mayor of Marseille has announced her resignation, believing that her first deputy, Benoît Payan, was best placed to step up to the emergency situation facing the city.

The first woman mayor of Marseille, Michèle Rubirola, announced on Tuesday, December 15, that she had submitted her resignation due to personal health challenges.

Elected in July at the head of a left-wing coalition Rubirola denounced the “calamitous” record left by the former right-wing municipality, with “bloodless finances”.

“Since 1945, Marseille has never been so ready to sink,” said Michèle Rubirola, a doctor by profession, adding that the city now needed an “emergency doctor".

Vaccination - Due to expectations that EU countries will be able to roll out their vaccination campaigns before Christmas. The European Medicines Agency has brought forward a meeting to decide on authorisation for the Covid-19 vaccine by more than a week to 21st December.

The announcement of a change to the previous date of December 29th came after mounting pressure on the regulator from European countries desperate for a vaccine.

Protests - Actors and cultural organisations in France have protested against the French government's decision to leave venues such as theatres, cinemas and museums closed for another three weeks, at least until 7th January.

Across France demonstrators gathered at noon on Tuesday. In Paris, cultural professionals gathered at Place de la Bastille, brandishing banners saying we’re going to die and not even on stage”.

French minister questioned - French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has been questioned by judges over rape allegations

The right-winger's lawyers said that the minister had spoken to two investigating magistrates "at his own request" over accusations of rape, sexual harassment and abuse of trust.

The Interior Minister has been the focus of protests against President Emmanuel Macron's centrist government in recent weeks, as the government introduce