Third wave - France is experiencing the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. While new lockdown measures were introduced in 16 departments last Saturday, the health situation is also deteriorating in the rest of the country as shown by figures published by Public Health France on Tuesday March 23rd. The incidence rate (number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants) is increasing well beyond the confined areas (Ile-de-France, Hauts-de-France, Alpes-Maritimes, Eure and Seine-Maritime). Between March 1st and March 19th, the number of departments with an incidence rate above the alert threshold of 250 increased from 21 to 42, with a large part of the departments in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region and the east of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
PACA region - Indeed, the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur regional health agency announced on Tuesday 23rd March, the activation of “level five” in intensive care units due to the pressure. This means postponing some medical procedures to increase the capacity to treat severe cases of Covid-19. On Tuesday, 510 Covid-19 patients were occupying intensive care beds in the region, despite several dozen medical evacuations in recent weeks.
Meanwhile the government spokesman Gabriel Attal speaking to French media on Tuesday has said that "At this stage, no decision has been taken concerning a lockdown in the Var” adding that a decision will be made at the Defense Council which meets today Wednesday 24th March.
Scientific Council - The French government's scientific advisory council has warned that, if the measures imposed last weekend on nearly one-third of the national population are not enough to stem the rising tide of Covid-19 infections, then tougher restrictions will have to be considered. Arnaud Fontanet, member of the special scientific council advising President Emmanuel Macron's government said that, "if the government restrictions are strictly respected, they could work" to reduce the Covid infection rate in the worst-hit zones. "But if the rules are not respected, it won't be enough." The specialist went on to say that the current rate of increase of infections is not quite as severe as that observed last spring. Fontanet suggested that in badly affected areas, the closure of colleges and high-schools would have to be considered.
High schools to be used as vaccination centres - The president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region Renaud Muselier, has suggested to turn all public high school gymnasiums in the region into vaccination centres during the Easter holidays. The project has been submitted to health minister Olivier Véran for authorisation. Some 150 high schools from Nice to Marseille via Digne-les-Bains have been identified by the region, which proposes to open them during the two weeks of the spring holidays in zone B, i.e. from April 26th to May 9th to further accelerate the fight against the epidemic.
To date 512,000 first doses have already been administered in the PACA, a region with some 5 million inhabitants spread over the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône, the Var, and the Vaucluse.
Classes closed in Nice - On Tuesday nine classes were closed in the Alpes-Maritimes due to cases of Covid. They are:
- 1 nursery class at Caucade.
- 1 class of 4th grade at college Daudet
- 5 nursery classes, Flore school.
- 1 nursery class at Jeanne de France.
- 1 class of 2nd grade at the Calmette high school.
Monaco – Seventeen new cases of Covid have been declared on Tuesday bringing the total number of residents affected to 2,199. 34 people are in hospital and 65 are being followed by the Home Monitoring Centre.
The Union of Oenologists of France - The Union of Oenologists of France has called for "priority vaccination" for wine professionals. In a press release the union said that wine professionals had been "particularly impacted" in their profession by the loss of taste or smell caused by Covid-19. The Union underlines that in its unprecedented study carried out in the summer of 2020 out of 2,625 wine professionals in 37 countries including France, nearly 38% of wine professionals had lost their taste or smell because of Covid-19.
In other news
“Yellow vests” - Three men and two women have been sentenced to terms of up to 14 months in prison responsible for a series of fires in the Dordogne during the “yellow vest” movement. During the hearing on Tuesday 23rd March they were “prosecuted for criminal conspiracy and destruction of private property” back in December of 2018.
Gas plants as green-friendly investments? - Environmental groups have expressed their dismay at leaked proposals by the European Union to classify some gas plants as green-friendly investments. Sebastien Godinot, an economist with the World Wildlife Fund, has sounded the alarm over the plan in an open letter to the EU executive saying, “Gas is a fossil fuel and the very idea of classifying it as environmentally sustainable is a disgrace.”
Animal rights association to demonstrate in Sanary-sur-mer - An animal rights association has announced plans to demonstrate on the Place de la Liberté in the port of Sanary-sur-mer in the Var this Saturday the 27th March. Organisers say the protest is against the suffering endured by billions of fish around the world. The demonstration is planned between 2pm and 5pm.
Android - Users of Android mobile phones have been experiencing problems with their devices since Tuesday 23rd March, with millions of complaints. The update of the Android Webview system is said to be the cause of the failure. The bug is believed to have come from a major crash affecting the services of Google. And according to the Android Twitter account, Samsung Galaxy users, especially more recent ones, are more affected than others. A little tip to make your smartphone work: disable the updates for this application, as well as Chrome in the settings of your laptop.
Asian shares have hit a two week low this morning as oil prices fell further and the dollar neared four-month highs. Market sentiment has been affected by fresh coronavirus lockdowns in Europe and potential US tax hikes. Asian shares have had a disappointing run in March after five straight months of gains with risk appetite spooked by fears of inflation. Analysts say that the combination of increasing lockdowns in much of Europe have led to a risk off day where Treasuries rallied on the back of a flight to safety. Fears have been stoked after Germany extended its lockdown until April 18th and a US health agency said that the AstraZeneca vaccine developed with Oxford University may have included outdated information in its data. Meanwhile, the dollar has approached four months highs against a basket of currencies while the euro edged towards 4 month lows as a result of fresh lockdowns.
China’s biggest car maker is launching a premium electric vehicle that it hopes will take on Tesla. Geely which owns Volvo and Lotus announced that its Zeekr brand will tap into China’s demand for electric vehicles. The news comes as Elon Musk goes on a charm offensive in China praising its plans to tackle carbon emissions. The Tesla founder has been seeking to calm Chinese concerns about his cars on-board cameras. Geely said that it would be developing and manufacturing high-end electric vehicles under the Zeekr brand and hopes to start deliveries in the third quarter of this year. The firm already has exposure to premium electric cars through the brands that it owns. The Chinese firm will face stiff competition from Tesla with the Model 3 the top selling electric vehicle model in China last year.
The United Arab Emirates is set to invest billions of pounds in British health, tech, green energy and infrastructure as part of a post-Brexit deal. The Financial Times reports that Mubdala, one of the UAE’s most active funds will pay £800 million pounds into life sciences over the next five years. Reports suggest that investments in three other sectors will be of a similar scale. The paper says that the exact size of the total investment is not yet clear but that it’s expected to be worth up to £5 billion. Abu Dhabi is trying to diversify its economy away from oil and gas and the report says that it sees the UK as a prime investment target.
Cricket – India have beaten England by 66 runs in the first one day International in Pune. India batted first and made 317–5 from their 50 overs. In reply England could only manage 251 from 42.1 overs. The second game in the three match series is being played on Friday.
Football – The former England striker Frank Worthington has died at the age of 72 after a long illness. Worthington won 8 caps and scored 2 goals for the national team. He was the ultimate journeyman footballer and started his career at Huddersfield Town. He went on to make more than 200 appearances for Leicester City and played for a range of clubs including Bolton, Birmingham City, Southampton, Leeds United and Sunderland. He was also known for his flamboyant antics off the pitch as well as his Maverick skills on it.
In World Cup qualifying tonight, France play Ukraine, Belgium host Wales and Serbia play The Republic of Ireland.
Formula One - Drivers will be allowed to take the knee to demonstrate their opposition to racism before Grand Prix this season. The move is part of an initiative to promote sustainability, diversity and inclusion. Unlike last year, the pre-race demonstration will not just be devoted to anti-racism and drivers will be able to choose their own gesture to support inclusivity on the grid. Lewis Hamilton who led the protests last season says that the most important thing is action in the background. He said that racism continues to be an issue that affects his day-to-day life as well as the lives of so many people.
Rugby union – Eddie Jones is facing crunch talks with the English Rugby Union following his sides fifth placed Six Nations finish. Jones is contracted until the 2023 World Cup and has spoken of his desire to win the tournament in France. The Rugby Football Union boss Bill Sweeney says that there will be a brutally honest review of England’s performance. The review will take place next month and will involve a panel of rugby experts from both inside and outside the RFU.
Tennis – Andy Murray has been forced to pull out of the Miami open. The 33-year-old had been due to play Lloyd Harris in the first round later today but has picked up a groin injury. Murray said he didn’t know where the injury had come from and why it happened. He added that he’d been having trouble walking.
Mainly fine with light variable winds. Top temperature 15-16 degrees. Overnight lows of 6-8 degrees with clear skies.
Thursday and Friday - Mainly fine tomorrow, sunshine and showers on Friday. Highs of 14-16 degrees.