French and Riviera News Wednesday 1st February 2023

News

Brace yourself for changes from today in France - As with the first of every month in France, today February 1st will see several changes from an increase in motorway tolls to an end of some covid rules. February 1st will see a rise of 4.75% on France’s motorway network, although there will be a “special gesture” made for short home-work journeys limited to 30km. Taxi fares are to increase by 4% today and in banks, if you have savings in a “Livret A” the rate will be raised from 2 to 3%. In transport the SNCF are changing the rules for exchanging a ticket and from today take note that exchanging your ticket a week before departure will now cost 19 euros. As far as electricity is concerned there will be a 15% increase, as while the tariff shield on electricity and gas prices in maintained in 2023 it is less protective than that of 2022. Concerning employment in France there will be a 25% reduction in the duration of compensation for job seekers. Finally created at the start of the health crisis in 2020 "in order to limit the spread of covid ", exceptional work stoppages, for people who tested positive, will no longer be possible and  “systematic isolation” of positive cases as well as “carrying out a test” two days after being a contact case will no longer be required, with the follow-up of "contact cases", via the "Covid contact" service managed by the Health Insurance ceasing to exist.

Hours after a day of strike action, more action is announced by unions - French unions have announced two separate days of action against the government’s pension reform just hours after nationwide demonstration on Tuesday. Tuesday February 7th and Saturday February 11th have been suggested as unions say “the government must listen to the massive rejection of the reform and withdraw it". On Tuesday figures estimated that nearly 1.3 million people took to the streets of France to express their opposition to one of Macron's main policies. On 19 January, one million protesters gathered throughout the country. The CGT claimed 2.8 million people demonstrated on Tuesday.

France’s interior minister praised the police for ensuring the protests took place in an orderly fashion. But the day did cause widespread chaos. Schools and colleges closed and transport networks were heavily disrupted. Currently France's retirement age of 62 is among the lowest in Europe. The government claims maintaining the option will become financially unsustainable. However, Macron's opponents say the system is currently balanced. The head of the independent Pensions Advisory Council recently told the French parliament that pension spending was not out of control.

Number of homeless people in France has more than doubled in ten years - In its annual report published today, the Abbé Pierre Foundation warns of poor housing in France, which affects millions of people. According to the Abbé Pierre Foundation the number of homeless people in France has more than doubled in ten years. Homeless, in emergency accommodation or in a centre for asylum seekers, homeless people have seen their number increase by nearly 130% since 2012 with around 300,000. This figure includes some 200,000 people in emergency accommodation, 110,000 migrants in reception centres or accommodation for asylum seekers, plus around 27,000 homeless people, sleeping in the street, the metro, in a tent or in a car.

Missing 18-year-old in the Gard - Two people have been placed in police custody in connection with the disappearance of 18-year-old Sihem Belouahmia in the Gard (reported on Monday on Riviera Radio). Sihem has not given any sign of life since January 25th. A man and his ex-girlfriend were taken into custody on Tuesday. The man was arrested near Alès as part of the investigation and his ex-companion was also placed in police custody as part of the same investigation. The young woman is still nowhere to be found. The investigation continues.

Priest suspended in the Var accused of sexual assault - A priest in the Var has been suspended following an investigation for "sexual assault". Authorities are verifying the facts that could be qualified as sexual assault.  In the meantime, the Var priest has been suspended by the bishop of Fréjus-Toulon for not having respected "his commitment to celibacy" and is also the subject of an open investigation for "sexual assault’. The priest ordained in 2004 in the Var, was notably the parish priest of La Garde, between 2007 and 2013, and archpriest of the cathedral of Toulon, between 2014 and 2020.

Minister of State tests positive for covid - Monaco's Minister of State has tested positive for a second time, for covid.  In a statement sent to the press on Tuesday afternoon, the Prince's government announced that Pierre Dartout, Minister of State for the Principality, tested positive for Covid-19 in the morning. Dartout has mild symptoms, and his condition does not cause any concern. The minister will continue to work remotely, in permanent liaison with the government advisers and will respect the duration of isolation, in accordance with the health rules in force. This is the second time that Pierre Dartout has contracted the coronavirus. At the end of December 2021, during the end of the year celebrations, he and several members of his family had tested positive for Covid-19, upon their return from vacation in the Alps. A week ago, the Prince's Palace had sent a similar press release to announce the positivity of Prince Albert II for the third time in almost three years of health crisis.

Cases of covid in Monaco continue to decline - Meanwhile cases of Covid-19 in Monaco have continued to decline. In the week to last Sunday only 14 cases of Covid were detected in the Principality. The incidence rate was 36 per 100,000 people, down from 43 in the previous week. As of Sunday January 29, 7 people, including 4 residents, were hospitalized at the Princess Grace Hospital. No one was being treated in intensive care. As at Sunday evening, 5 people were being followed by the Home Monitoring Centre.

Lost lottery – Finally, France’s national lottery body the “Française des jeux” has confirmed that the million euros won by a Charentais has been definitely lost as the player, who had until midnight on Monday evening, has failed to come forward and collect their winnings. The money has therefore been recovered by the FDJ and put back into play.

Business

Oil giant ExxonMobil reaped a record $55.7bn (£45.2bn) in profit last year as oil prices surged following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The total was more than double 2021's figure and is likely to renew pressure on the industry after some countries, including the UK, imposed special taxes on the profits last year. Exxon has criticised such measures as counter productive.

PayPal is shedding around 2,000 jobs, or 7% of its workers, as it becomes the latest big tech firm to cut costs. The online payments company says it was forced to make the decision as it faces "the challenging environment." PayPal's announcement follows tens of thousands of layoffs by technology giants in the last month alone. This year, Google's parent company Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft have announced major job cuts.

The UK government is announcing measures to "robustly" regulate the cryptocurrency industry. It says the proposals, being published on Wednesday, will give consumers confidence while allowing the sector to "thrive". Critics say ministers should take a cautious approach, given the industry's prolonged global slump. The crisis has seen companies collapse, crypto values tumble and customers lose huge sums of money.

Analysis has suggested that the way electricity prices are set has pushed UK household bills up by £7.2bn over two years. Under existing rules, energy suppliers pay the highest price for wholesale electricity no matter how it is made. Gas-fired generation is the most expensive and only makes up about 40% of all electricity made for UK homes. According to the not-for-profit climate think tank Carbon Tracker “if an average price was used the UK's bill could be much lower”.

Sport

Football – Chelsea have agreed a British record 121m euro deal for Benfica's Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez. The deal eclipses the £100m Manchester City paid for Jack Grealish in 2021.

Newcastle United reached their first cup final since 1999 by overcoming Southampton 2-1 in the EFL Cup at an ecstatic St James' Park. They will now face either Manchester United or Nottingham Forest at Wembley as the Magpies attempt to win their first major trophy since the Inter Cities' Fairs Cup in 1969.

Manchester United play Nottingham Forest this evening in the semi-finals. Kick off is at 9pm French time.

Rugby Union - England hooker Jamie George is "on track" to be available for Saturday's Six Nations opener against Scotland. George, 32, sustained a concussion in Saracens' defeat by Edinburgh on 22 January.

Tennis - Former world number two Alexander Zverev will not face disciplinary action following an investigation into allegations of domestic abuse. The ATP investigation found there was "insufficient evidence" to substantiate claims made by the German's former girlfriend.

Weather

Sunny intervals with a moderate breeze in the Alpes Maritimes. Highs of 14 degrees in Monaco, Menton and Nice. Clear skies and sunshine in Cannes and Saint Tropez with highs of 15 degrees. This evening going down to 2 degrees with clear skies.

The outlook for Thursday and Friday - Remaining fine, highs of 14-15 degrees with a moderate wind.

Sunrise       07.47hr

Sunset        17.40hr

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