French and Riviera News Wednesday 31st March 2021


Measures to stop the spread of Covid - The French government is considering three scenarios concerning measures against the spread of Covid in France with an announcement expected from French President Emmanuel Macron or Prime Minister Jean Castex this evening, following the defence council meeting this afternoon. The scenarios range from increasing medical support to relieve hospitals to a hard lockdown and the possible closure of schools.

19 departments are currently under lockdown in France with other departments possibly being affected from Friday 2nd April. To relieve hospital pressure, intensive care equipment could come from areas less affected by the circulation of the virus and staff from private establishments could be mobilized, a sector where 2,000 beds are still available nationally. An "explosive" proposal is also under consideration: to make patient transfers compulsory, without the consent of families, but by paying relatives for accommodation, transport and part time work. Another possibility is the closure of schools. This measure would then lead to an increase of teleworking with more controls in companies. The government has remained firm on keeping schools open saying the closure of establishments would be a last resort. However, classes are closing by the dozen on a daily basis due to the new health protocol, which was introduced where one case of Covid results in closure. The new protocol has seen the number of classes closing triple in the Paris region over the last two days with 722 classes closed as teaching staff claim the spread of Covid in schools “is completely underestimated by the French government”.

Warning – Meanwhile the head of an intensive care unit in the Île-de-France has warned that they have “four to five patients for one available bed" adding that the situation has reached an” extremely severe and critical level”. Dr Djillali Annane, head of the intensive care unit at the Raymond Poincaré Hospital in Garches (Hauts-de-Seine) pleads with the government to "not wait any longer for new measures", adding that it would be a "big mistake."

Alpes Maritimes – In the Alpes Maritimes, the Regional Health Agency (Public Health France) announced six new deaths from Covid on Tuesday 30th March with the circulation of the virus on the rise this week. Since the start of the epidemic, the coronavirus in the Alpes Maritimes has killed 1,749 people (443 in nursing homes, 1,306 in hospitals). According to the ARS, 5 new admissions to hospital were also recorded bringing the number of patients hospitalized for coronavirus to 337. The incidence rate - which corresponds to the number of people tested positive over seven days and reported to 100,000 inhabitants - is 470 from March 21st to 28th remaining above the regional average of 461.

AstraZeneca vaccine – A 38-year-old woman has died from thrombosis in Toulouse. The patient died 14 days after the injection of a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. She did not suffer from any particular health problems and had been vaccinated just before the suspension of AstraZeneca in mid-March. According to reports complications appeared shortly after vaccination. On March 26th, the National Medicines Safety Agency (ANSM) said that there was a very rare risk of thrombosis - formation of a blood clot - after the injection of the AstraZeneca vaccine underlining that "the benefit / risk ratio of the vaccine remains positive, and that there is no evidence for the moment that the vaccination has caused thrombosis”.  The case is being investigated.

AstraZeneca changes name - Meanwhile the Swedish-British vaccine AstraZeneca against Covid has changed its trade name to Vaxzevria according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) website. The new name does not change the composition of the vaccine.

Flights between Morocco and France suspended - As part of the preventive measures against the spread of the Covid pandemic flights between Morocco and France have been suspended until further notice. The announcement was made in a press release by the Ministry of Tourism on Tuesday. France along with Spain joins a list of 40 countries with which Morocco has suspended its flights including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Italy – In Italy, reports say that the Italian Ministry of Health has stated that a mandatory five-day quarantine for travellers from other European Union countries will be introduced from this Thursday, 1st April. Quarantine is already mandatory for people arriving in Italy from outside the EU. The quarantine requirement includes those people who test negative for Covid-19. A test is required before arrival and a further test is then required at the end of the five days in isolation.

Vaccination in the Var - A vaccination bus is operating three days a week in the municipalities in the north of the Var. The service will operate for two months to expand the territorial coverage of vaccination. All the appointments are made by the municipalities for their residents over 75 years of age as a priority. Five temporary pop-up vaccination centres are also opening in the Var from today until this coming Sunday. You can get more details on the Var Prefecture's website.

Curfew checks - Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin has said that since the start of this year 5.2 million checks have been carried out in compliance with curfew measures, resulting in 523,000 fines. This past weekend alone 100,000 checks were carried out resulting in 17,000 fines.

In other news

Record temperatures - Record temperatures for the month of March have been recorded with up to 11 degrees higher than the average for this time of year in France. In Cherbourg (Manche), the thermometer read 23.4 degrees, while the average in March is around 10.6 degrees. Remarkably mild temperatures were also recorded in Brittany and Paris experienced 24.7 degrees compared to the normal 13 for this time of year although the record of March 25th, 1955 of 25.7 degrees has not yet been reached.

Blue shark - A blue shark has been discovered on the Almanarre beach in Hyeres in the Var. The shark was found washed up on rocks. Police along with health prevention and risk services intervened and a security perimeter has been established. An employee of the National Park of Port-Cros recovered the shark to proceed with its evacuation. The blue shark is a protected species and therefore certain precautions must be taken in the event of a shark being discovered.


Oil prices have risen this morning paring overnight losses ahead of a meeting of OPEC and its allies with investors betting that producers will largely agree to extend supply curbs into May. Brent crude was trading up 0.2% a little earlier this morning at $64.29 with West Texas Intermediate up 0.3% to $60.70. Traders expect that OPEC will maintain supply discipline when it meets on Thursday at the end of a month in which oil prices have seesawed on concerns about extended pandemic lockdowns in Europe, slow vaccine rollouts and a rise in COVID-19 cases in India and Brazil. Last month OPEC surprised the markets by agreeing to extend supply curbs. Under existing restrictions, OPEC led by Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC producers led by Russia have cut just over 7 million barrels per day while Saudi Arabia has made an additional voluntary reduction of 1 million barrels per day.

The British government has restated that it is considering all options to keep Liberty Steel’s  UK plants and jobs afloat. On Sunday, the government rejected a request for £170 million in financial support for the firm. The business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government could not put money into a “black box”. However, the government now says that it may consider nationalising Liberty Steel and that all options are  on the table. Mr Kwarteng said that he thinks the steel industry has a future in the UK and that while the future of the market is uncertain the government’s net zero carbon plan has changed the dynamics in terms of the state’s relationship to parts of the economy.

The German carmaker Volkswagen is not to change its name to ‘Voltswagen’ in the US despite earlier saying it would in a press release. It now appears that the name change was in fact an April fool’s joke that was leaked to the press early by mistake. The carmaker has now put out an official press release to clear up the matter. On Tuesday, the car maker went as far as changing its name on its US websites and even launched a new ‘Voltswagen’ Twitter handle. It then denied speculation that it was just a prank leading to numerous media outlets picking up the story.


Football – There were several European World Cup qualifiers last night with Wales getting their campaign out of the blocks as they beat the Czech Republic one nil. Belgium thrashed Belarus 8-0 and the Netherlands romped to a 7-0 win in Gibraltar. There are more games tonight with England playing Poland. Scotland at home to the Faroe Islands and Northern Ireland against Bulgaria. France are away at Bosnia Herzegovina.

Cricket – West Indies are in a strong position heading into day three of the second Test against Sri Lanka at North Sound. The home side were bowled out for 354 on day two with Sri Lanka on 136–3 at the close.

Tennis – Defending champion Asheigh Barty is into the semi finals of the Miami Open. The Australian world number one beat Aryna Sabalenka in three sets to make the last four.