French and Riviera News Wednesday March 3rd 2021


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 availabl