French and Riviera News Wednesday 7th April 2021

News 

AstraZeneca - A link has been confirmed between the AstraZeneca vaccine and thrombosis, but for the World Health Organisation “the benefits still outweigh the risks”. The announcement came from the European Medicines Agency on Tuesday and has been described as a considerable blow in the fight against the pandemic which is still severely affecting many countries.

For several weeks, there have been suspicions on possible, rare, but serious side effects, in people vaccinated with AstraZeneca of cases of thrombosis. Dozens of cases have already been identified, several of which have resulted in death. In the UK, there have been 30 cases and seven deaths, out of a total of 18.1 million doses administered as of March 24th.

As a precaution, several countries have decided to no longer administer the AstraZeneca vaccine below a certain age, such as France, Germany and Canada. Norway and Denmark have for now, suspended its use altogether.

Vaccination campaign - During a visit to the vaccination centre at the Stade de France on Tuesday French Prime Minister Jean Castex declared that the "vaccination campaign is accelerating in France while confirming that "more than 12 million doses" would be received "in the second half of April".

Covid figures – France has exceeded the threshold of 30,000 in the number of Covid patients currently in hospital with 30,639 people hospitalised according to figures released by Public Health France on Tuesday evening. 8,045 new cases were identified with 632 new admissions to intensive care and 409 deaths. While numbers are above the peak of the second wave in mid-November, they remain below that of the first wave in April of last year.

Alpes Maritimes - Meanwhile the Regional Health Agency for the Alpes Maritimes has declared 30 new deaths from Covid. Since the start of the epidemic, the coronavirus has killed 1,796 in the region (438 in nursing homes, 1,360 in hospitals). The agency says that data shows a drop in the circulation of the virus yet an increase in the number of people being hospitalised. According to the ARS, the incidence rate - which corresponds to the number of people tested positive over seven days for 100,000 inhabitants - is 417 for the period from March 24th to April 5th. This is below the regional average of 495.

France’s Education minister says digital education platforms have been restored - France’s Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer confirmed on Tuesday evening that all digital online platforms had been restored following a crash in the system. On Tuesday parents and teachers braved the first day of homeschooling and were faced with a serious of problems unable to connect or access the educational platforms. The French government claimed that problems on the ENT platform had been due to a fire which occurred over a month ago at the OVH data center in Strasbourg, a claim which has since been denied by the company, while the problems affecting the CNED were said to be due to a cyber-attack apparently from abroad. Many teachers and parents have criticized the government pointing out that a “year ago they were faced with similar problems and nothing has been done since to improve the service”.

French church leaders launch investigation - French church leaders have launched an investigation after images emerged of a packed Easter service during which priests and the congregation disobeyed government rules aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The shocking pictures showed worshippers at a church in the French capital standing and moving in close proximity, with few masks being worn and priests placing wafers directly into the mouths of communicants. According to reports the mass on Saturday lasted four hours and was attended by up to 400 people. 

Fines - The French Interior Ministry has said that almost 1,000 fines have been issued to customers of illegally opened restaurants in Paris since the 30th October last year. It said that over 7,300 checks have been made on Paris restaurants since that date. The figures were released after controversy caused by a French TV report last Friday which showed luxury dining taking place in breach of health restrictions.

In other news 

Forest fire - Residents in the town of Auriol east of Marseille have been able to return to their homes after being evacuated on Tuesday evening due to the outbreak of a "violent forest fire”. 155 inhabitants were evacuated as firefighters from the Bouches-du-Rhone and the Var battled the blaze which had already destroyed 90 hectares by 9pm on Tuesday evening. It was on Tuesday that the Prefect of the Var reminded residents that the current dry conditions combined with the Mistral winds represent a fire danger for the massifs of the Var. Any use of fire is prohibited in the department when winds are above 40 km / h, in particular during brush clearing operations.

Business

The boss of Amazon, Jeff Bezos has said he supports raising taxes on US companies. The comments by the world's richest man come as US President Joe Biden is pushing to raise the corporate rate from 21% to 28%. The rise would help pay for a massive spending plan to upgrade America's roads, ports, water pipes and internet. In his speech unveiling the proposal, Mr Biden singled out Amazon as an example of a company that pays too little.

The International Monetary Fund is now forecasting a stronger economic recovery this year and next. The IMF has upgraded both its UK and global forecasts compared with what it projected in January. But the British economy is still predicted to return to its pre-pandemic level of activity only in late 2022. The agency also warns that recoveries are diverging dangerously within and between countries.

Toshiba has received a buyout offer from a British private equity fund in a deal that could be worth about $20bn (£14.5bn). The scandal-hit firm's shares were temporarily halted on Tokyo's stock exchange after it confirmed the bid by CVC Capital Partners.

Sport 

Football – In the Champions League Liverpool lost last night 3-1 to Real Madrid while Manchester City stood their ground winning 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund. This evening’s champion league action will see Bayern Munich face PSG and FC Porto face Chelsea.

Rugby Union - South Africa are tentatively beginning preparations for July's British and Irish Lions tour with groups of players to attend "alignment camps" in April. Due to Covid the Springboks have not played a Test or even officially gathered as a squad since becoming world champions in November 2019. The first Lions Test is on 24 July.

Golf - Bryson DeChambeau has a "secret" club for this week's Masters as he continues to "go down numerous rabbit holes" in his quest to win a Green Jacket. The American was favourite to win when the last Masters was held in November after his six-shot US Open Triumph.

Weather 

Starting off cloudy with possible showers in the Alpes Maritimes this morning. Clearing by this afternoon with highs of 13 degrees, going down to 5 degrees with clear skies.

The outlook for Thursday and Friday - Mainly fine with high of 16-17 degrees.

And Finally 

A study has found that women are twice as likely to give birth to a girl if they experienced more stress around the time of conception. Researchers from Spain recorded the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the hair of 108 women from around week nine of their pregnancy through to delivery. Each hair measurement covered the cortisol levels for the preceding three months — meaning the first one taken covered the period prior to and including conception. The findings confirm that foetuses are vulnerable to the effects of maternal stress and that such can play a key role in their development.

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