Covid-19 deaths - France has registered an extra 301 deaths from coronavirus in the past 24 hours taking the total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 87,220. 22,857 new cases of the virus were detected on Tuesday with 25,263 people receiving hospital treatment of which 3,600 are on mechanical ventilation. The figures are a slight increase on Monday with no signs that the government’s curfew measures and weekend lockdowns are having a significant effect in combatting the virus. In the Alpes Maritimes there were 23 new deaths from the virus on Tuesday bringing the total number of deaths in the department since the start of the pandemic to 1,509.
Covid-19 debate - The French National Assembly will hold a full debate on the coronavirus health crisis on March 24th with the participation of all political parties. The heads of the various Covid-19 commissions on health and the economy will present their findings which will be followed by a question and answer session with deputies. Opposition parties say that they’ve been kept in the dark about the government’s plans since January and have not been able to fully evaluate the current situation. Deputies say that they want more transparency from Ministers and a full debate is well overdue.
Sarkozy - The former French President Nicolas Sarkozy will be interviewed on TF1 Television News tonight to protest his innocence following his conviction and sentencing for corruption and influence peddling. Mr Sarkozy was handed a one year jail term with a further two suspended by a court in Paris on Monday after being found guilty of trying to influence a judge with a plum job in the south of France in return for information about a legal case concerning him. He announced that he would be appealing against the verdict immediately afterwards and will remain free pending a new trial which could take several years to come to court. In an interview in Le Figaro newspaper on Tuesday, Mr Sarkozy said that he was prepared to take his case as far as the European Court of Human Rights to clear his name. The former Head of State has received strong support from high ranking members of his Les Republicains Party including the former E.U. Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier who has said that he’s convinced that he is innocent and the Mayor of Antibes Jean Leonetti who backed his decision to appeal.
Vaccine Passport - It seems highly likely that, despite French opposition, the European Union will go ahead with the introduction of a vaccine passport to allow people to travel between member states during the summer months. France has been less than enthusiastic about the idea but the majority of EU states seem to be in favour. The President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen says that the digital “green passport” will give Europeans the “freedom to travel in complete security in both the EU and overseas”. It’s hoped that the passport will help to boost the eurozone economy but there’s a long way to go before enough people in the bloc will be eligible to get one. At the moment, only 4.2 percent of EU citizens have received their first coronavirus jab.
Down in the dumps - A survey by the Nice Côte d’Azur Chamber of Commerce and Industry has found that business confidence in the south of France is at its lowest ever level. Results of the survey of 1,500 local business leaders questioned in January showed a 50 percent contraction in turnover in some sectors. Hotels and restaurants have been the worst affected by the health crisis with only some offering takeaway meals and many forced to close completely. The metals industry suffered an 18.5 percent contraction with business at car showrooms down 8.5 percent. Among the only bright spots was the pharmaceutical industry with turnover up 5.5 percent and all food stores which registered a 1 percent increase in the fourth quarter. Results for the first quarter of this year are forecast to be even worse.
Local challenge - Around 200 citizens have launched a legal challenge against the weekend lockdown in the Alpes Maritimes. The class action which has been presented to the Nice Administrative Court is seeking to establish whether the lockdown ordered by the prefect is legal. Lawyers acting for the plaintiffs say that the measure is “disproportional” and are asking for access to regional health authority data on infection rates in the department. A second weekend lockdown is due to come into force this Friday from 6pm. The court will hand down its verdict later today.
New vaccine sites - Two new Covid-19 vaccination sites are opening in the Var from today. The new sites are at Fayence and La Londe les Maures as local health authorities ramp up vaccinations. Earlier this week other sites in Frejus and Saint Maxime la Saint Baume opened their doors. 30,000 extra vaccines have been made available in the department for the over 75s and people with underlying health conditions this week. More sites at Grimaud, Toulon and La Garde will open within the next two weeks. Addresses for the vaccination sites are available from the regional health authority ARS at www.ars.sante.fr.
Saliva tests - Children at a school in the Pessicart area of Nice will be the first in the Alpes Maritimes to be given the new saliva test for Covid-19 that’s due to be introduced in all French schools by the middle of March. The saliva test is much less intrusive than PCR and antigen testing and simply requires children to spit in a flask which is then sent for analysis. The first tests will be administered to children at the Mantega school in Nice on Monday. The Education Minister wants to see 6,000 saliva tests carried out at schools in the Alpes Maritimes and the Var in the first week after the half-term holidays.
Illegal Camp - Legal action is being taken to force a group of travellers to move off land in La Seyne sur Mer. A number of caravans arrived on the site on the boulevard de l’Europe in early February and have been joined by others during the course of the past two weeks. There are now some 30 vehicles illegally occupying the Aquasud swimming pool complex carpark and the prefecture, local mayor and the owners of the land have started court action to have them removed.
The UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak will deliver his budget speech to parliament later today with more cash earmarked for the Covid-19 recovery amid heavy government borrowing. In what’s being seen as a crucial budget for the business community, Mr Sunak is expected to resist the temptation to raise income tax but there may be moves to increase corporation tax at a time when many businesses are struggling under the dual weight of the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has already indicated that he’ll give more money for the vaccination rollout and he’s earmarked 5 billion pounds to help high street businesses to reopen. There’s also set to be a new mortgage guarantee scheme to help first-time buyers and the government’s job support scheme is to be extended while lockdown persists. Mr Sunak has however warned of tough economic times ahead and that some taxes will have to rise.
The head of a group representing US airlines is calling for a third round of government aid for the industry. Nick Callo, who leads Airlines for America has told the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s aviation subcommittee that tens of thousands of airline workers will lose their jobs or experience wage reductions on the 1st April if the government doesn’t step in. President Biden’s 1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus pandemic relief package contains provision of 14 billion dollars for passenger airlines to keep workers on the payroll for another 6 months but it requires approval from the Senate. Mr Callo said that the government must recognise that the airline industry remains in “dire straits” and will be inundated with debt for years to come.
Volvo is to go entirely electric by 2030 as the firm bets on the death of the petrol engine. The Chinese owned firm is one of a number of car manufacturers who are planning to phase out fossil-fuel engines by the end of the decade. The firm says that it’s convinced that there will not be many customers who want to stick with petrol engines after 2030 and that electric cars are rapidly become more attractive. Volvo said that 50 percent of its fleet should be fully-electric by 2025 and the other half hybrid. Carmakers are racing to switch to zero carbon emission models as they face tougher CO2 targets in Europe and China plus looming bans in some countries.
Football - Tributes have been paid to the former Liverpool and Scotland forward Ian St John who’s died at the age of 82 after a long illness. St John played 425 games for Liverpool scoring 118 goals between 1961 and 1971. He also won 21 caps for Scotland. In the 1980s and 90s he formed a successful television pundit show for ITV with Jimmy Greaves. Saint and Greavsie had a weekly audience running into the millions. Liverpool said that they were “deeply saddened” by the passing of a “true Anfield legend”.
There was one game in the English Premier League last night. Manchester City are now 15 points clear at the top following a 4-1 win over Wolves. There are three games tonight. Burnley play Leicester. Sheffield United host Aston Villa and Crystal Palace play Manchester United.
In the English Championship last night Cardiff beat Derby 4-0. Coventry lost 2-1 at home to Middlesbrough. Huddersfield and Birmingham drew 1-1. Millwall beat Preston 2-1. Nottingham Forest lost 1-0 at home to Luton and Reading beat Blackburn 1-0.
Formula 1 - Mercedes have unveiled their car for the new season with the black livery retained in support of anti-racism. The Mercedes W12 is an upgrade from last season’s car which dominated winning 13 out of 17 races. Team boss Toto Wolff says that Mercedes are as determined to succeed as ever in spite of their record-breaking run of 7 consecutive world titles. Lewis Hamilton will be attempting to achieve a record-breaking 8th drivers’ championship.
Rugby Union - The Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has signed a one year contract extension with the Irish Rugby Football Union which will take him to the end of the 2021-22 season. The deal does not clear up whether the player will still be available by the time the 2023 World Cup comes around when he’ll be 38.
Quite cloudy with light variable winds. Top temperature 15 degrees. Overnight lows of 6-8 degrees with partially cloudy skies.
Thursday and Friday - Partially cloudy with highs of 13-15 degrees.