Four French Police Officers Charged Over Beating, Racial Abuse Of Black Man

French anti-riot police officers patrol during a protest against the “global security” draft law in Lyon, on November 28, 2020. PHOTO: OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP

 

Four French police officers were charged Monday over the beating and racial abuse of a black music producer, a case that has outraged France and ramped up pressure on the government to give ground on a controversial security bill.

The assault of Michel Zecler — exposed in video footage published last week — has become a new rallying cause for critics who accuse the police of institutionalised racism and brutality.

President Emmanuel Macron summoned cabinet ministers and parliamentary leaders to a crisis meeting Monday to rapidly produce “suggestions to re-establish confidence” between the police and the population, government sources said.

Later Monday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin is to face questions from a parliamentary commission over the new security law, which would restrict the right of the press — and of social media users — to publish images of on-duty police.

READ ALSO: Thousands Protest As France Reckons With Police Violence

Rallies against the law mobilised tens of thousands at the weekend, with dozens wounded during clashes with police in Paris, including a Syrian photographer who has worked for AFP.

 

 Policemen behind bars

A Paris investigating magistrate early Monday charged all four officers with assault by a person holding public authority. Three were also charged with fabricating their statement on the incident.

Two of the accused — including the most senior officer, a police brigadier aged 44 — will remain behind bars but the other two were freed on conditional release, a judicial source told AFP.

On Sunday, Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz called for three of the officers to be also charged with racial abuse.

He said that the officers had acknowledged that their use of force was unjustified, but that they claimed they had acted in “fear” and “panic,” and denied any racist abuse.

The four officers had good prior service records, Heitz added.

Zecler had been stopped for not wearing a mask and because of a strong smell of cannabis. A tiny quantity of the substance was found, he said.

 

Macron ‘in a trap’

Commentators said the images of the beating — first published by the Loopsider news site — might never have been made public if the contentious Article 24 of the security legislation had been in force.

The bill would criminalise publishing images of on-duty police with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity.” It was passed by the National Assembly this month, though it still requires approval from the Senate.

Critics says the legislation is further evidence of a slide to the right by Macron, who came to power in 2017 as a centrist promising a liberal overhaul of France.

Macron said Friday that the images of Zecler’s beating “shame us.”

The president “is caught in a trap,” said the headline in the left-leaning Liberation daily. “The government prefers to let the situation decay rather than withdraw Article 24.”

 

‘Aleppo came back to me’

The protests in Paris saw a brasserie set alight, cars torched and stones thrown at security forces, who responded with tear gas and anti-riot tactics.

Among those hurt was an award-winning Syrian photojournalist, Ameer al-Halbi, 24, seen with a bruised face and much of his head covered in bandages in AFP photos.

Al-Halbi is a freelance photographer who has worked for Polka Magazine and AFP.

“We are shocked by the injuries suffered by our colleague Ameer al-Halbi and condemn the unprovoked violence,” said Phil Chetwynd, AFP’s global news director.

Police have opened an internal investigation into the incident.

Al-Halbi, who was unable to get to the hospital for several hours, said the events felt like a throwback to the Syrian civil war.

“I didn’t think this kind of thing could happen in Paris, it was a shock,” he told AFP in an interview. “I never expected Paris to be a place where I would see blood all over the streets.”

In a tweet, Darmanin said 98 police officers had been hurt during the protests, but it was unclear how many protesters were injured.

AFP

Paris Cafes To Shut As Europe Confronts Second COVID-19 Wave

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 28, 2020 A restaurant employee removes tables on a terrace in Paris, on September 28, 2020, as the city is again being forced to close bars and restaurants earlier due to the health situation caused by the spread of the Covid-19 caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

 

Paris bars and cafes will shut for two weeks as the city and its region were placed on maximum alert Monday, with Europe facing a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the hospitalisation of President Donald Trump throwing the US election campaign into a tailspin.

France reported nearly 17,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday alone, the highest daily number since the country began widespread testing.

The shuttering of bars and cafes — seen by many as the essence of Parisian life — were “braking measures because the epidemic is moving too fast,” Paris police chief Didier Lallemant told journalists, adding that restaurants will remain open provided they respect new safety measures.

These will include making sanitising hand gel available at all dining tables, limiting patrons to six a table with at least a metre (3.3 feet) between seats, and allowing patrons to remove their masks only for eating.

Also on Monday, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said she would self-isolate for a day after learning she had met someone infected with Covid-19 last week.

Von der Leyen, who turns 62 this week, is not the first senior EU official to be quarantined in recent weeks. Last month the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, was forced to postpone a European leaders’ summit for a week after a security guard in his team tested positive.

Europe, which has recorded 235,553 deaths, is approaching a caseload of six million out of the more than 35.2 million cases officially diagnosed across the world.

The virus has killed at least 1,037,971 people worldwide according to the latest AFP tally based on official sources.

Britain remains the worst-hit European country, passing its latest milestone of 500,000 confirmed coronavirus infections on Sunday.

– Ireland, Russia hesitate –

Neighbouring Ireland for its part is mulling a nationwide lockdown after a surge of new cases.

The National Public Health Emergency Team recommended that the entire country reprise the highest level of Covid-19 restrictions imposed during the original lockdown in March.

Russia recorded 10,888 new cases on Sunday — close to a peak reached in May — but stopped short of reimposing a new lockdown.

Spain has decided partial lockdowns for two more cities, Leon and Palencia, after residents of Madrid and nine nearby towns were barred from leaving city limits for any reason other than work, school or medical and legal appointments.

While Madrid’s regional authorities have criticised the two weeks of restrictions as too stringent, healthcare experts have said they do not go far enough.

Europeans despondent over returning to restrictions they had thought were behind them can look to New Zealand’s triumph over a second wave in the Pacific island nation.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared that her country had “beat the virus again” and announced that restrictions in the largest city Auckland would be eased after a second Covid-19 wave was contained.

“Aucklanders and New Zealanders stuck to the plan that has worked twice now, and beat the virus again,” Ardern said.

– Mental health ‘forgotten’ –

While the ravages of Covid-19 on the physical and economic life of the planet are clear, the pandemic’s devastating effects on mental health have been widely overlooked, the World Health Organization said Monday.

A survey conducted between June and August revealed severe disruptions to mental health services in 93 countries, the WHO said ahead of a large fundraising push.

“This is a forgotten aspect of Covid-19,” WHO mental health director Devora Kestel told a virtual media briefing.

Meanwhile, as Trump began his fourth day in hospital on Monday, doctors said they would decide later in the day whether he could be discharged.

With a tough election campaign against Democratic rival Joe Biden in its final month, Trump and his advisors have sought to project a sense of continuity.

The US president, who was flown Friday to Walter Reed hospital outside Washington, released videos and photos of himself and made a drive-by appearance to supporters gathered outside the facility.

He said he had “learned a lot about Covid” by “really going to school” as he has battled the virus.

AFP

Paris Closes Bars To Curb COVID-19 Spread

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 28, 2020 A restaurant employee removes tables on a terrace in Paris, on September 28, 2020, as the city is again being forced to close bars and restaurants earlier due to the health situation caused by the spread of the Covid-19 caused by the novel coronavirus.  (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

 

Bars and cafes in Paris, placed on maximum coronavirus alert Monday, will be shuttered for two weeks under new measures to fight the rapid spread of the epidemic, but restaurants will remain open, officials said.

With the rate of new infections, hospitalisations and deaths accelerating months after the lifting of a nationwide lockdown, new rules on social distancing will enter into force starting Tuesday.

“These are braking measures because the epidemic is moving too fast,” Paris police chief Didier Lallement told journalists.

Bars and cafes have continued to draw large crowds often flouting physical distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.

But restaurants, described as establishments with the main business of serving food, can continue to operate provided they meet stricter new conditions, which will be announced later Monday.

Aurelien Rousseau, director of the ARS regional health agency, said Paris has crossed three thresholds that require its reclassification as a region on maximum alert: the general rate of virus prevalence, its spread among older people at higher risk of serious illness and the number of intensive care hospital beds taken up by coronavirus patients — now at 36 percent.

He said there were 203 active coronavirus “clusters” in the Paris Ile-de-France region.

Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne in a tweet urged employers and workers in Paris and other zones on maximum alert “to work from home as much as possible to slow the spread of the virus”.

-AFP

Paris Braces For Maximum COVID-19 Alert Level

People wearing face masks walk past a sign displaying sanitary rules on a market in Paris, on August 27, 2020, as face masks will become mandatory in the city. Ludovic MARIN / AFP
People wearing face masks walk past a sign displaying sanitary rules on a market in Paris, on August 27, 2020, as face masks will become mandatory in the city. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

Paris was preparing on Sunday to be placed under maximum coronavirus alert as alarming Covid-19 infection numbers appeared to leave the French government little choice but to tighten restrictions in and around the capital.

Paris’s trademark bars and cafes are threatened with complete closure as early as Monday after Health Minister Olivier Veran announced that only improved Covid-19 infection rates could prevent such a step.

If recent trends were confirmed “we’ll have no choice”, he warned on Thursday, saying new restrictions would mean “no more family gatherings, no more evenings out, and a total closure of bars”.

But a reprieve looks unlikely after France reported a 16,972 new coronavirus cases on Saturday alone, the highest daily number since the country began widespread testing.

Figures from the regional health agency ARS show new coronavirus cases remaining above 250 per 100,000 people in Paris, a threshold triggering the maximum alert protocol which has already hit the southern cities Aix-en-Provence and Marseille and their surroundings, as well as the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe.

“There is no justification for denial,” said the ARS director for the Paris region, Aurelien Rousseau, on Sunday. “The numbers are what they are, and they are weighing heavily,” he tweeted.

– ‘We’re French, we love to drink’ –

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin acknowledged that the looming closure of bars and cafes would be “tough” for everyone concerned.

“We are French, we love to drink, to eat, to live, to smile and to kiss each other,” he told broadcasters LCI and Europe 1 on Sunday.

“But we’re also doing this because the people want us to,” he added.

BFM television on Sunday published a poll saying that 61 percent of people living in Paris and its suburbs were in favour of a complete closure of bars, which are currently authorised to remain open until 10 pm.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo told reporters on Sunday that “it’s not a done deal, there is still work being done, we’re still talking”. But she also conceded that the health situation was “very serious”.

The government has said it will target primarily establishments that “serve alcoholic drinks without food”.

Restaurant owners are still hoping that they can dodge a similar fate, at least for now.

The health authorities are evaluating a proposal submitted by restaurants for voluntary restrictions — including registering the home addresses of their clients and limiting the number of people at each table — before submitting their recommendations to the government.

Other large French cities including Lille, Lyon, Grenoble and Toulouse are also hovering near the maximum alert threshold and similar measures as in the capital could be in store for them, too.

Employer organisation UMIH, which represents cafes, bars, hotels, restaurants, brasseries and discos, has warned that 15 percent of France’s 220,000 establishments in the sector are threatened with bankruptcy because of virus restrictions, with up to 250,000 staff facing unemployment.

The government has said it will take every precaution necessary to avoid a new state of emergency that would require a generalised lockdown like the one imposed at the height of the outbreak, from mid-March to mid-May.

The country’s total death toll from Covid-19 is 32,198 after recording 49 more fatalities on Saturday.

AFP

Paris Knife Attacker Admits Lying About His Age- Prosecutor

Anti-terrorism state prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard wearing a face mask speaks during a press conference on September 29, 2020 after man armed with a knife seriously wounded two people on September 25, 2020, (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

 

A man who injured two people in a meat cleaver attack in Paris last week admitted he lied to police when he said he was 18 and had entered the country as a minor, the lead prosecutor in the case said Tuesday.

The assailant in what the French government has called an act of “Islamist terrorism” had identified himself as Hassan A., an 18-year-old born in the Pakistani town of Mandi Bahauddin.

He entered France in 2018 under the false identity that gave him access to social security aid for minors, national anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard told a news conference.

After Friday’s attack, investigators became suspicious about his claims when they found a photo of an identity document on his phone that appeared to suggest he was actually called Zaheer Hassan Mehmood, aged 25.

“He eventually admitted that this was his true identity and that he was 25 years old,” Ricard said.

It was under that identity that he appeared in a video filmed before the Friday attack, in which he said he was avenging the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed by the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

The magazine was the scene of a massacre by Islamist gunmen in January 2015, and the trial of 14 alleged accomplices in that attack is currently underway in Paris.

The attacker seriously injured two employees of a TV production agency, whose offices are on the same block that used to house Charlie Hebdo. They are now in stable condition, officials said.

He told investigators he thought he was targeting employees of Charlie Hebdo, but did not realise they had since moved to a new location that is kept secret because of security risks.

Ricard said the attacker had never attracted the attention of any government intelligence agency before Friday’s assault.

-AFP

Masks Compulsory Across Paris As COVID-19 Cases Mount

French Prime Minister Jean Castex puts his protective face mask on during a press conference on the situation of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in France, at the Hotel de Matignon in Paris on August 27, 2020. CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / POOL / AFP
French Prime Minister Jean Castex puts his protective face mask on during a press conference on the situation of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in France, at the Hotel de Matignon in Paris on August 27, 2020. CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / POOL / AFP.

 

France’s prime minister announced Thursday that face masks will become compulsory throughout Paris as he urged the public to help halt a trend of mounting coronavirus infections.

Jean Castex said 19 departments have been added to a map with “red” zones of active virus circulation, meaning 21 of mainland France’s 94 departments are now classified as such.

Official figures released Wednesday showed more than 5,400 confirmed new cases in just 24 hours, with admissions to hospital and intensive care units on the rise.

There was an “undeniable resurgence” of the Covid-19 epidemic throughout France, Castex told a press conference, with 39 positive tests per 100,000 population — four times the level of a month ago, and rising in all age groups.

The “positivity rate” — the percentage of tests that come back positive — was up from one percent in May to 3.7 percent today, and the so-called “R” rate of viral transmission is now 1.4 nationwide, meaning 10 infected people are infecting 14 others on average.

More than 800 coronavirus patients are being admitted to hospital on average each week, up from 500 six weeks ago, the prime minister said.

“The epidemic is gaining ground, and now is the time to intervene” to curb exponential infection growth, he said.

– Dash to avoid lockdown –

Castex announced that Paris, one of the 21 zones with active virus circulation, will make face masks compulsory throughout the city.

The city council later said the measure would come into effect at 8:00 am on Friday.

Masks are already obligatory on public transport nationwide and in most enclosed public spaces, including the workplace.

File photo: Homemade protective face masks are prepared by Sarah, a 45-year-old volunteer, who sews face masks to be distributed to people in need, at her home in Vincennes, eastern suburbs of Paris, on May 7, 2020, on the 52nd day of a strict lockdown in France to stop the spread of COVID-19. – GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP.

 

Local authorities in some cities and towns, including Paris, have also used executive powers to make face coverings compulsory in busy outdoor areas.

On Tuesday, the Mediterranean port city of Marseille — also in a red zone — made masks compulsory in public places throughout the city, including outdoors, and announced bars and restaurants would close every day at 11:00 pm.

Castex said the government would do everything in its power to avoid issuing new nationwide stay-at-home orders, but the possibility could not be excluded entirely and localised lockdowns may be on the cards.

– ‘Relaxation’ to blame –

He urged French people to do their part by taking infection-prevention measures such as regular hand-washing and mask wearing, and to practice social distancing.

Some “relaxation” in French society appears to have contributed to the post-lockdown infection rise, he said, with some unwilling to wear masks or follow guidelines to avoid parties or stay away from older people at higher risk.

The rate of infection increase was particularly high among people aged 20 to 30.

Castex said the situation was not yet “serious”, with the virus incidence rate still 20 times lower today than it was at the peak of the epidemic, when there were an estimated 1,000 cases per 100,000 of the population.

But if things do take a turn for the worse, he said hospitals were ready with sufficient beds, masks and equipment.

The outbreak has claimed over 30,500 lives in France.

Masks will become obligatory for all children over 11 when they return to school next week after the summer holidays, including on the playground, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer announced Thursday.

AFP

Face Masks Now Compulsory In Paris As COVID-19 Cases Rise

People wearing face masks walk past a sign displaying sanitary rules on a market in Paris, on August 27, 2020, as face masks will become mandatory in the city. Ludovic MARIN / AFP
People wearing face masks walk past a sign displaying sanitary rules on a market in Paris, on August 27, 2020, as face masks will become mandatory in the city. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

France’s prime minister on Thursday announced face masks will become compulsory throughout Paris, expressing concern over an “undeniable” trend of expanding coronavirus infection in the country.

Jean Castex said 19 more departments have been added to a map with “red” zones of active virus circulation, meaning 21 of France’s 94 departments are classified as such.

Official figures released Wednesday showed more than 5,400 confirmed new cases in just 24 hours, with admissions to hospital and intensive care units on the rise.

There was an “undeniable resurgence” of the Covid-19 epidemic throughout France, Castex told a press conference, with an incidence rate of 39 positive tests per 100,000 of the population — four times the level of a month ago, and rising among all age groups.

The “positivity rate” — the percentage of tests that come back positive — was up from one percent in May to 3.7 percent today, and the so-called “R” rate of viral transmission has risen to 1.4 nationwide, meaning ten infected people are infecting 14 others on average.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex puts his protective face mask on during a press conference on the situation of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in France, at the Hotel de Matignon in Paris on August 27, 2020. CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / POOL / AFP
French Prime Minister Jean Castex puts his protective face mask on during a press conference on the situation of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in France, at the Hotel de Matignon in Paris on August 27, 2020. CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / POOL / AFP

 

More than 800 coronavirus patients are being admitted to hospital every week on average, up from 500 six weeks ago, said the prime minister.

“The epidemic is gaining territory, and now is the time to intervene,” he said, appealing to all French people to take infection-prevention measures such as regular hand-washing and mask wearing, and social distancing.

Castex announced that Paris, one of the 21 zones with active virus circulation, will make face masks compulsory throughout the city. He did not give a date.

The government would do everything in its power to avoid issuing new, nationwide stay-at-home orders, the premier added, but the possibility could not be excluded entirely and localised confinements may be on the cards.

Face Masks Now Compulsory In Paris Tourists Hotspots, Crowded Areas

In this file photo taken on May 11, 2020, a man and a woman wearing face masks walk on Trocadero Plaza as a French national flag flies on the Eiffel Tower in background in Paris on the first day of France's easing of lockdown measures in place for 55 days to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus. PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 11, 2020, a man and a woman wearing face masks walk on Trocadero Plaza as a French national flag flies on the Eiffel Tower in background in Paris on the first day of France’s easing of lockdown measures in place for 55 days to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus. PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP

 

Face masks became compulsory in tourist hotspots in Paris on Monday amid warnings of a resurgence of coronavirus cases, as infections in the world’s worst-hit country the United States topped five million.

The requirement came as France along with much of Western Europe sweltered in a heatwave, with temperatures soaring above 35 degrees Celsius (95 F).

The blistering heat sent crowds flocking to beaches at the weekend despite health warnings about the risk of infection.

In Berlin, thousands of children returned to school on Monday after the summer break, sporting masks which are compulsory in common areas like school courtyards. Schools in some other German regions also reopened, though with differing rules on masks.

“No child forgot their masks this morning, so we see everything is back to normal,” said Domenica Acri, headmistress of the Carl Orff primary school in Berlin.

In Pakistan, all restaurants and parks were allowed to reopen Monday, as well theatres, cinemas and public transport, after the country saw a drop in new cases for several weeks.

‘Anything but second lockdown’

People in Paris aged 11 and over are now required to wear the masks in crowded areas and tourists hotspots.

These include the banks of the Seine River and more than 100 streets in the French capital, including tourist destinations like Montmartre, where the Sacre Coeur basilica is located.

A man wearing a protective mask passes by a scaffolding by Dior on August 7, 2020 in Paris, amid the crisis linked with the covid-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. ALAIN JOCARD / AF
A man wearing a protective mask passes by a scaffolding by Dior on August 7, 2020 in Paris, amid the crisis linked with the covid-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus.
ALAIN JOCARD / AF

 

Several French towns and cities have already introduced similar measures, as well as parts of Belgium, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain.

“All the indicators show that since mid-July the virus is again circulating more actively in the (Paris) region,” said a police statement at the weekend.

Paris residents interviewed by AFP generally supported the decision on masks.

“I think it’s a very good idea, we should maybe have done it sooner,” Bertrand, 28, said in the popular Rue des Martyrs in central Paris.

“Since we don’t understand enough about this illness, the best thing is that we protect ourselves.”

The masks are “restrictive” but necessary “if we want to avoid a second wave in Paris,” said Marion, 24, wearing a bright green mask. “Anything except a second lockdown.”

Globally, nearly 20 million cases have been officially registered.

The death toll is at least 731,500 worldwide since the novel coronavirus emerged in China last December, according to a running tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

The United States is by far the worst-hit country with nearly 163,000 deaths. On Sunday, it reached the extraordinary milestone of five million coronavirus cases, according to according to John Hopkins University.

President Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent in the presidential election, Joe Biden, tweeted that five million coronavirus cases was “a number that boggles the mind and breaks the heart.”

‘Unworkable, weak’ relief

The figures came as Trump was accused of flouting the constitution by unilaterally extending a virus relief package.

The package — announced by Trump on Saturday after talks between Republican and Democrat lawmakers hit a wall — was “absurdly unconstitutional,” senior Democrat Nancy Pelosi told CNN.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event about regulatory reform on the South Lawn of the White House on July 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
President Trump has extended a coronavirus relief package.

 

Fellow Democrat and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, appearing on ABC, dismissed Trump’s unilateral measures as “unworkable, weak and far too narrow.”

But with the world’s largest economy still struggling to dig itself out of an enormous hole, Democrats appeared skittish about any legal challenge to a relief package they see as seriously inadequate.

The four executive orders Trump signed Saturday at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey will, among other things, defer payroll taxes and provide some temporary unemployment benefits.

The president was seen as keen to show himself taking decisive action ahead of a November 3 election that could see him ousted from office, with polls showing a large majority of voters unhappy with his handling of the crisis.

Grim milestone for Brazil

After the US, Brazil has the most cases, and on Saturday it became the second country to pass 100,000 fatalities.

President Jair Bolsonaro has played down the coronavirus from the beginning, dismissing it as a “little flu,” questioning the lockdowns ordered by some state governors and saying their economic impact could be “more deadly than the virus.”

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 18, 2020 Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestures using a face cover during a press conference regarding the COVID-19, coronavirus pandemic at the Planalto Palace, Brasilia. (Photo by Sergio LIMA / AFP)

 

Following the news of the latest milestone, Brazil’s most widely viewed TV network Globo criticised Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis, asking “Has the president of the republic done his duty?”

In Peru, indigenous people armed with spears and angry over what they consider government neglect of their communities in the pandemic assaulted a settlement for oil workers deep in the Amazon, triggering a clash with police that left three natives dead, the government said Sunday.

In Spain, top-flight football club Atletico Madrid on Sunday reported two positive coronavirus tests, just four days before they face Germany’s Leipzig for a place in the Champions League semi-finals.

It was not revealed whether the two positive cases involved players or backroom staff.

Atletico said UEFA as well as the Spanish and Portuguese football and health authorities have been informed and that a fresh round of tests will be carried out on the squad and support team.

 

AFP

Man Utd, Inter Favourites For Europa League In Unique German Finale

 

Manchester United, Inter Milan and Sevilla headline a quintet of former champions travelling to Germany for a remodelled eight-team straight knockout tournament that will crown the winner of a Europa League campaign heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

All games from the quarter-finals onwards in this season’s competition will be played behind closed doors as one-off ties across four venues — Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen — following a five-month interruption.

While a Champions League berth still awaits the victor of the final in Cologne on August 21, much has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak that brought European football to a standstill in March.

“There are rules and regulations on the bubble that’s going to travel. We’ve got to stick together, stay together in and around the hotel and the training ground,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of the strict health protocols clubs must respect.

Players and staff will undergo virus testing before departing for Germany and again on the eve of a match once arriving, a process repeated for each subsequent game in the final tournament.

UEFA has advised teams to travel on charter flights and minimise contact with the general public, strongly recommending the use of exclusive hotels — to which players will largely be confined — in order to avoid potential cross-contamination.

Masks will not be required for substitutes and coaching staff but they must maintain social distancing when seated, with players instructed to limit contact as much as possible when warming up. Match balls will be disinfected before kick-off and at half-time.

United, the 2017 winners, face FC Copenhagen in Monday’s quarter-final in Cologne while Serie A runners-up Inter take on Bayer Leverkusen in a clash of former UEFA Cup champions at Dusseldorf Arena.

Premier League collision course

England forward Jesse Lingard, who played in United’s 2-0 win over Ajax in the final three years ago, is confident the team can capture the title for a second time.

“We can’t wait to get there and play this game now. 100 per cent I want to win it again,” Lingard told MUTV.

“Lifting a trophy is a special feeling you can’t really explain and winning it before you take that confidence forward. We have got a mixture of youth and experience in the squad and for the young lads to win their first trophy, it will be perfect for them.”

Should United advance to the last four they would face either Sevilla — who have won the Europa League and its precursor, the UEFA Cup, a record five times — or Premier League rivals Wolves in Cologne on August 16.

Wolves are through to a first European quarter-final since 1972 but were punished by UEFA in midweek after failing to comply with Financial Fair Play requirements. They take on Sevilla in Duisburg on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Inter beat Getafe 2-0 in a single-leg last-16 tie Wednesday in Gelsenkirchen, and Antonio Conte’s men harbour hopes of adding to the three UEFA Cups won in the 1990s.

“This is an important competition. It doesn’t matter where and under what conditions you’re playing, you should only be focused on the upcoming match,” midfielder Christian Eriksen told Inter TV.

“It’s certainly not as fun playing without fans, the atmosphere isn’t there. We’ll try to excite them while they’re watching on TV, and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to embrace our supporters again soon.”

Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, winners of the 2009 edition, play Swiss outfit Basel in the other quarter-final in Gelsenkirchen.

This year’s Europa League final was initially due to be played in the Polish city of Gdansk in late May before the health crisis forced a change of plans.

Gdansk will host next year’s final instead.

Orly Airport Paris Reopens After 3-Month Virus Closure

A photograph taken on June 22, 2020, shows an information board for travelers in the arrival area of the Terminal 3 at the Orly airport, in Orly on the outskirts of Paris, a few days before its reopening as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus). - The airport should reopen on June 26, 2020 after being closed as part of the measures adopted by French government to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)
A photograph taken on June 22, 2020, shows an information board for travelers in the arrival area of the Terminal 3 at the Orly airport, in Orly on the outskirts of Paris, a few days before its reopening as France eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus). – The airport should reopen on June 26, 2020 after being closed as part of the measures adopted by French government to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

 

 

Paris’s Orly airport reopened on Friday for the first time in nearly three months after air travel collapsed during the coronavirus pandemic, but flights will be a fraction of the usual rate.

A plane operated by low-cost carrier Transavia took off for the Portuguese port city of Porto, the first commercial flight since the airport south of Paris came to a halt on March 31.

Two firetrucks on either side of the plane shot a festive arc “water salute” over the stationary aircraft, with the passengers inside waiting to taxi to the runway.

Airlines including Transavia, Air France, EasyJet, Vueling, and Air Caraibes account for most of the traffic at Orly, flying to the Caribbean, Reunion Island, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Iceland, and Croatia, among others.

On Friday, officials expect around 8,000 passengers, less than 10 percent of the daily pre-virus average of around 90,000.

They will be on more than 70 flights compared to the normal run of 600 a day.

Traffic is due to increase to 200 flights daily in July but it will depend much on whether Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia reopen their borders as well as on whether the virus remains under control.

– Vast damage to global aviation –
For nearly three months, all commercial flights from Paris have taken off from the main Charles de Gaulle airport to the north of the capital, in order to rationalise costs.

In May, traffic plummeted by almost 98 percent at Charles de Gaulle, with only 200,000 passengers coursing through its halls, a snapshot of the damage done to global aviation.

The International Air Transport Association said earlier this month that the world’s airlines were in line to make a combined net loss of more than $84 billion this year.

Orly has taken measures to check the spread of the coronavirus, with more than 7,000 posters and stickers to keep people at a safe distance, hand sanitisers, and plexiglass windows at check-in desks and other counters.

Staff also used thermal cameras to check the temperatures of passengers.

Others dressed in protective white suits and masks sprayed disinfectant on surfaces like automatic check-in screens.

Almost all the stores at Orly 3 were to open on Friday, apart from a few exceptions such as a self-service sweet shop.

The hundreds of thousands of people who live under the air corridors said they dreaded the end of three months of peaceful nights, a “paradise” where they recalled birds singing instead of roaring jet engines.

Luc Offenstein, a retired commuter train driver who had campaigned to curb air traffic nuisance, said the area had got used to a new way of life.

Residents near Orly have fared better than those at Charles de Gaulle because they benefit from a curfew on flights between 11:30 pm and 6:00 am.

 

 

-AFP

France Closes Two Paris Schools As Precaution After COVID-19 Cases

Middle school pupils arrive at their school, on June 22, 2020 in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, as primary and middle schools reopen in France. – After six weeks of unsteady school sessions and more than three months of class at home to fight against the spread of the new coronavirus Covid-19, French pupils and middle school students return to class on June 22, thanks to a lighter health protocol. Thomas SAMSON / AFP.

 

French authorities have closed two schools in Paris as a precautionary measure after the discovery of coronavirus cases but they have not been classed as potentially dangerous clusters, authorities said Wednesday.

France, unlike some other European countries which have taken a much more cautious approach, on Monday resumed obligatory schooling for all pupils after the coronavirus shutdown.

Some schools had already been open at least partially for several weeks after the initial easing of the lockdown.

But a school in the 12th district of Paris with 180 pupils has been closed until the end of the week after three cases were discovered, the local health authority told AFP.

However the timescale of the infections — spread over the start of June to Monday — indicates that this is not a cluster, it added.

Another Paris school, in the 4th district and with 200 pupils, has been closed until July 7 after one case was discovered.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Crisis Sinks Global Economy In 2020, Collapsing GDP 4.9% – IMF

However, the local authority said there were no other schools closed in Paris due to COVID-19 cases.

Life across France has now returned to a semblance of normality after the lockdown, albeit with many people still working from home and wearing masks on the street.

Officials are wary of a second wave but say there has been no evidence of this yet despite the relaxation measures.

According to the latest figures published late Tuesday, 29,720 people in France have died from the virus with 161,267 positive cases registered.

AFP

Three PSG Players Found To Have Virus During Lockdown

 

Three Paris Saint-Germain players and another member of staff were found to have contracted coronavirus during lockdown but are “no longer contagious” after further tests, the French champions said Tuesday.

PSG said the unnamed players were free to take part in training when it resumes later this week after undergoing “serological tests” on Monday.

READ ALSO: French Football Season Declared Over, PSG Awarded Title

“Those concerned had symptoms during confinement when they weren’t in contact with each other,” PSG said in a statement. “They are no longer contagious and can carry on their training programme.”

PSG still have big matches to look forward in the coming months despite the Ligue 1 season being ended early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They are still to play in the French Cup and League Cup finals, as well as the Champions League ‘final eight’ tournament in Lisbon in August.