Lunchtime News Thursday 28th January 2021


Storm Alex - Almost four months after storm Alex, the leg of a missing person from Roquebillière in the Alpes-Maritimes has been found more than 600 kilometers from the Vésubie valley, off the coast of Narbonne. On October 2nd last year Storm Alex hit the Roya and Vésubie valleys and Josette and Léopold Borello, 84 and 88, from Roquebillière, were swept away.

Several weeks after the tragedy, the leg of Josette Borello was fished off the coast of Narbonne in mid-November, it took weeks to allow the exact identification which was confirmed on Wednesday January 27th. So far, the toll of Storm Alex is 18 missing and only nine bodies have been found.

First of the month – As with every first of the month in France changes are set to come into force from February 1st including an increase in gas and electricity rates, the price of cigarettes will increase along with motorway tolls. Due to the health crisis there will also be new rules for partial unemployment and an extension on restaurant vouchers.

Vaccination - In a press release this morning Pfizer/BioNTech has wished to reassure on the effectiveness of their vaccine against new variants of Covid. According to them the vaccine they have developed retains the vast majority of its effectiveness against the main mutations of Covid variants detected in the UK and South Africa.

French authorities will not double time between vaccinations -Meanwhile French authorities have decided not to double the time in between COVID-19 vaccinations due to a "lack of scientific consensus". Health Minister Oliver Véran said that although some experts have backed lengthening the time between the two doses in order to give a first dose to as many people as quickly as possible, "there is no consensus in the scientific community on this proposal at this stage." Adding that "according to some experts this would not be a risk-free proposal," the minister concluded that the time between the two doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine in France will thus be maintained at 21 to 28 days.

France’s education minister does not rule out closing schools – As France awaits a decision from the French government as to what is next in the face of the Covid crisis speaking to French media this morning France’s education minister Jean Michel Blanquer, has reaffirmed that “we must never refrain from any scenario and that of a strict lockdown is also on the table” the minister added that “the closure of schools had not been ruled out”.

Recent poll shows 52% of French against third lockdown - According to a recent poll more than half of French people (52%) are against a new strict lockdown similar to that of last March. The poll carried out by Elabe and published on Wednesday shows that while 93% of French people were in favour of the first lockdown and 67% for the second one the situation is not the same for a third lockdown. One of the great dangers of a new confinement feared by specialists is the deterioration of the mental health of the population. According to a poll carried out by Odoxa-CGI at the end of November, 32% of French people felt depressed, with particularly worrying levels among young people under 25 and students (53%). The data shows that during the second lockdown there was an increase in stress, anxiety, depressive states and addictions.

Health experts have said that if the French had accepted the restrictions of the first two lockdowns, it is also because they thought they would "see the light at the end of the tunnel" in 2021. This was without counting the increase in cases and the arrival of many variants, more contagious. “The French believed the situation would improve after Christmas, with the arrival of the vaccine”. But, a delay in the vaccination campaign and the arrival of variants has disrupted everything.  Concluding that “while some French people saw their mental health deteriorate, others entered a phase of anger” and some have the impression that they are being asked to stay at home and be good, believing that the government considers that they are not responsible citizens."

Meanwhile France’s former interior minister Christopher Castaner has warned that a third national lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19 could lead to “civil disobedience” by some. A new lockdown has been called for by several leading medical experts in France.

Is France heading for a third lockdown? – It’s the question being asked across France today following Wednesday’s defence council meeting and the next few days are crucial in the decision making. Earlier in the week the President of the Scientific Council in France made it quite clear that the decision was now a “political one” and Emmanuel Macron is undoubtedly faced with a political decision that he could never have imagined at the beginning of his term in office back in May 2017.

Faced with the deterioration of the pandemic and the spread of the British variant, the Head of State said on Wednesday that "different scenarios" were being studied to contain the spread of the virus.

Macron has also said that a time for reflection is needed before a new decision is announced. While rumour has it that a third lockdown is on its way Macron is looking at several scenarios. Firstly, that of sticking to just the current curfew of 6pm. A possibility which nevertheless seems unlikely due to the threat of variants. Then there are the possible additions to the 6pm curfew such as, a lockdown at weekends, limit of travel between regions and an extension of the February school holidays. Finally, there is the “very tight lockdown” which would be similar to the one in March which saw complete closure of none essential shops, working from home when possible and restrictions on leaving your home with the question still unanswered of schools being open or closed.

Before deciding one way or the other, Macron has decided to take time to reflect, and actively consult with a view to making a decision. The Head of State has requested additional data before deciding. The data awaited by the French President is figures on the spread of the British variant which is thought to be three times more than at the beginning of January and additional figures on the effect of the national curfew at 6 pm which was introduced ten days ago.

Meanwhile today and tomorrow Prime Minister Jean Castex will conduct a series of meetings. Health Minister Olivier Véran is to hold a press conference at 2pm this afternoon to take stock of the health situation, note that today’s press conference will replace the usual one on Thursday evenings.

And the Ministry of the Economy and Finance is also working towards additional restrictive measures; looking at a reinforced health protocol in stores, during a meeting this afternoon at 4pm.

Covid figures in France – Meanwhile whatever the outcome of meetings held today and tomorrow the number of hospitalisations in France is on the rise according to government figures on its website. At the end of the day on Wednesday, the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients continued to increase to reach 27,169 people including 1,931 new hospitalizations in 24 hours. In addition, the number of patients in intensive care is 3,107 with 318 new admissions in 24 hours. There have been 351 new deaths in hospitals in the last 24 hours and Covid has now killed 74,456 people in France.




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