Second French Minister Hospitalised With COVID-19

A member of the French civil protection (protection civile) holds a thermometer and a document with pictograms to ask to migrants and homeless people to verify if they have symptoms of COVID-19 coronavirus in a accommodation center in Nantes, western France, on May 08, 2020, on the 53rd day of a strict lockdown in France to attempt to stop the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).


France’s culture minister Roselyne Bachelot has been hospitalised after testing positive for Covid-19 over the weekend, a source close to the minister told AFP on Wednesday.

The worsening symptoms for Bachelot, 74, comes after the announcement Monday that her cabinet colleague Elisabeth Borne, the 59-year-old labour minister, had also been hospitalised with the coronavirus.

“Her condition is stable and is not worrying,” the source said, adding that Bachelot’s doctor ordered “increased surveillance at hospital for a few days.”

Paris and its suburbs are seeing a surge in Covid cases that prompted the government last week to close non-essential businesses in a third lockdown since the pandemic began, though with less strict stay-at-home orders.

On Tuesday, the government also issued new guidelines for companies in Paris and other regions placed on maximum alerts, urging them to have a maximum number of employees work from home.

Hospitals in the Paris region are racing to free up beds after the number of patients in intensive care reached 1,370 on Tuesday, with officials now aiming to have 2,200 beds available in the coming days.

Nationwide, the number of intensive care patients stands at 4,634 and doctors warn that cases are on track to match the peak of 4,900 seen during the second wave of infections that hit France last autumn.

President Emmanuel Macron announced Tuesday a new push to step up France’s innoculation drive with the arrival of increased vaccine shipments in April, including the creation of 35 mass vaccination centres.

The country has administered nearly 6.4 million initial doses of the three vaccines available in France, representing 9.5 percent of the population, according to health ministry data compiled by the site.

French Finance Minister Describes ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests As Catastrophe To Economy

A man with a sign reading “Macron resign” waves a French flag as “yellow vests” (Gilets jaunes) protestors gather to protest against rising oil prices and living costs at the highway’s toll of La Barque, on December 9, 2018, near Marseille, southern France.  SYLVAIN THOMAS / AFP

The Bank of France on Monday slashed its fourth-quarter growth forecast in half, to 0.2 percent from 0.4 percent, citing the impact of the “yellow vest” protests which have rocked the country.

“Services activity has slowed under the impact of the movement. Transport, the restaurant and auto repair sectors have gone backward,” the French central bank said in its latest company survey.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had warned Sunday that the protests sweeping France were a “catastrophe.”

“It’s a catastrophe for commerce, it’s a catastrophe for our economy,” Le Maire told reporters as he visited shops in Paris hit by looting during anti-government riots a day earlier.

The Bank of France’s latest estimate for the three months to December is well short of the 0.8 percent that would be needed to meet the government’s 2018 growth target of 1.7 percent.

The French economy expanded 0.4 percent in the third quarter and 0.2 percent in both the first and second, according to official statistics.

Le Maire, speaking earlier on RTL, said he expected the protests to cut fourth-quarter growth by 0.1 percentage point but refused to comment on a possible downward revision of the full-year 1.7 percent figure.

“I am not going to revise the figures for the moment but we will certainly have 0.1 percentage point less growth at the end of this year,” he said.

“That cannot be made up. That is the reality — for commerce, small business owners who have seen their shops damaged, vandalized, looted,” Le Maire said.

“That is also the reality for the foreign investors who are looking at us… I see already the impact that has abroad and it is not good for (image) of our country,” he added.


Iran: Rouhani To Abide By Nuclear Deal

iranIran President, Hassan Rouhani, has vowed to abide by the terms of the preliminary nuclear agreement it signed with six world powers, if they do same.

Hassan Rouhani said, “The world must know that we do not intend to cheat.”

The Iranian leader warned that Iran would have other options, if world powers “one day decide to follow a different path”.

The framework deal signed on Thursday was to see Iran curb nuclear activities in return for relief from sanctions.

Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, warned that the deal posed a grave danger to the region, his own country in particular.

Mr Netanyahu said that any compressive accord due before June 30 had to include a “clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist”.

“Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons,” Mr Netanyahu asserted.

French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said, “We are not completely at the end of the road and the end of the road should be in June, adding that nothing is signed until everything is signed, but things are going in the right direction.”

US President, Barack Obama, also said that the framework agreement would make the world a safer place, as it would “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon”.