Lunchtime News Thursday 21st January 2021

News

Switzerland places Monaco and the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region on its red list - Switzerland has placed travellers from the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur and Monaco on its red list due to the Covid-19 pandemic. From the 1st February, those arriving will either have to return home or self-isolate in suitable accommodation and stay there for ten days. They will also have to report their presence to the authorities and inform them of where they are staying. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to 10,000 swiss francs. The information given on the Swiss Ministry of Health website underlines that a negative test does not allow the quarantine obligation to be lifted however, the quarantine requirement does not apply to people on a business trip for an important reason, people travelling for an important medical reason or even transit passengers who have stayed less than 24 hours in Monaco or the PACA region.

Winter sports tourism – France’s tourism minister has said that following the government’s decision for ski lifts to remain closed the winter sports tourism season is a complete write off adding that even a “reopening in mid- or late-February seems highly improbable”. Speaking in a video conference with industry players, he acknowledged that the season would be a write-off for the sector, which counts for between 250,000 and 400,000 direct and indirect jobs in France. Prime Minister Jean Castex will meet industry players in the coming days in order to “finalise the economic support measures” for companies affected by the prolonged closure.

Wastewater - Meanwhile tests carried out on the wastewater in Nice to trace the contamination of Covid, are making it possible to quickly estimate the circulation of Covid-19 in the city. The latest study as reported this week, has raised concerns of a new resurge in cases with the concentration of Covid in wastewater tripling between the first and second week of January. According to the data some areas are affected more than others. Magnan and the west of the city being the least affected with the port area showing higher levels. Director of the project Alexandre Lacoste explains that “when results show a high concertation of the virus in wastewater it means that there will probably be more people in intensive care ten days later”.

Gas leak - Following a gas leak on a construction site this morning near the Cagnes sur mer train station traffic at the A8 interchange came to a standstill. The motorway was closed and those in surrounding buildings were told to stay indoors. The situation was brought under control shortly after 10am.

Fire in apartment in Nice - Residents have been evacuated after a fire broke out in an apartment on the Avenue Estienne d’Orves in Nice this morning. Firefighters intervened at 10am after smoke was seen coming from the second floor of the seven storey building. Nearly thirty firefighters were still mobilized at 11am.

EU head of state to discuss new Covid variants - The heads of state and government of the European Union are meeting today at 6pm for a new summit by videoconference dedicated to the fight against the Covid epidemic and measures to try to counter the spread of the more contagious variants of the coronavirus.  Some reports this morning in French media claims that “new studies seem to confirm that the South African variant may, at least partially, escape the protection hoped for by the current vaccines.

Health passports – Meanwhile the EU will also debate today the covid health passports for travelers. Digital health passports that enable passengers to travel internationally after Covid-19 could become necessary in Europe, as companies begin development of the idea and nation states consider new laws. The idea of health passports has already been welcomed by airlines and airport heads.

Health situation in France- According to a senior government source and reports from French media BFMTV the possibility of a “third national lockdown is hanging over France”. Latest figures published on Wednesday 20th January, by Public Health France, show the number of patients in intensive care is at its highest level since mid-December. Faced with such figures and the threat of variants of Covid the source said that a “tightening of restrictions seems inevitable in the short term despite attempts to give the curfew a chance to improve the situation” he added that for now “a third lockdown would not be a probability until next week”.

There will be no government press conference today to announce new restrictions as the threat of a future lockdown looms. Meanwhile infectious disease specialist and member of the Covid-19 vaccine committee Odile Launay has advocated on French radio this morning a possible “return to lockdown for those most at risk”.   

Fake doctor carried out covid tests - A fake doctor is to appear in the criminal court of Nanterre in France today suspected of carrying out false Covid tests. The woman posed as a doctor claiming to be able to test for Covid at home. If found guilty the suspect could face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of 375,000 euros. The Covid pandemic has led to scams flourishing across France in recent months. In this case the victims were asked to pay 70 euros for a test in cash.

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