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Strikes in France over planned pension reform to continue for second weekend



Strikes over a planned pension reform in France look set to continue for a second weekend and Parisians can expect serious delays on Saturday, according to a statement by RATP which runs Paris’ public transport network.

Nine metro lines will be closed completely on Saturday, the state-run company said.

However, 60 per cent of bus services will be running and trams will run as normal.

Long-distance rail services will also be delayed, with only one in four long-distance TGV trains running on Saturday, SNCF said Friday.

The state-run rail firm said it would publish a timetable this weekend of train services this week should strikes run over the Christmas period.

People from a range of professions have taken part in industrial action opposing plans by the government to reform pensions for more than a week.

Demonstrations are expected to take place in Paris and other cities on Saturday.


Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim



Spotlight: France cautiously starts COVID-19 lockdown exit




Nearly two months after ordering its 67 million population to stay home to stem the coronavirus outbreak, France on Monday cautiously started a gradual process to return to normalcy, easing some restrictions while maintaining others to avoid a new epidemic wave.


People can move more freely without restriction. More important for them, meetings with family and friends are allowed if the gathering draws no more than 10 people. Providing they put in place safety precautions, businesses resume, factories kickstart long-stalled production lines, pupils go back to schools and shops reopen.

“I’m so excited. It’s so good to go back to work after a long period of confinement. I feel that I’m reborn,” said Josephine, a florist while receiving a client with a hydro-alcoholic gel and a smile under the mask.

The 45-year-old woman has to clean a visor and the cash register after every client, while stickers on the ground of her shop marked social distancing.

Beatrice, a baker in the pedestrian street in l’Isle-Adam, northern Paris, told Xinhua that she was happy to see shops open and street lively again, even if the masks people wear reminded her that the situation is not the same as before the coronavirus outbreak.

“What we all hope is that as many employees as possible can find their company and their factory resume work…while conditions of health security must be respected,” Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told BFM Business TV.

In early morning, a relatively small number of people used the capital’s buses and metros as people are advised to work from home if they can, to limit contact and stem contagion.

One million stickers on the ground in train and metro stations and seats marked social distancing. At the entrance of each station, passengers are handed with hydroalcoholic gel.

Commuters had to wear masks and need to fill in a document to use public transport in rush hours in early morning and in the evening. Any offender risks to pay 135 euros (145.95 U.S. dollar).

France’s first day post-lockdown “is going as it should,” said Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, minister of state for transport said, expressing “satisfaction to see that the wearing of the mask is well respected.”

The sate-run rail company SNCF said 60 percent of regional network is operational on Monday, while a third of high-speed trains and 25 percent of intercity are running. RATP, Paris public transport firm, said it was operating 75 percent of metro, bus and tramways lines.

Some 1.5 million children, or 22 percent of the country’s total number of pupils, are preparing to go to school on Tuesday, and 190,000 teachers resumed work on Monday, according to the Education Ministry’s data.

Under the new rules, citizens can only travel up to 100 km unless for professional and urgent reasons, while restaurants, cafes and cinemas are still banned from receiving customers.

The government has opted for gradual strategy to lift the containment measures to avoid a resurgence of the COVID-19. On the color-coded map, which classified regions on the basis of the virus spread and tension in hospitals, 32 departments are in red including the north-eastern region and Ile-de-France.

In the zones of risk, parks, gardens and secondary schools will remain shut. Meanwhile, cafes, restaurants and secondary schools may reopen from early June in “green” zones.


In a reminder of the risks involved in easing restriction, three clusters were identified last week in Dordogne, southwestern France, following a funeral, another in the western department of Vendee and in Clamart, Paris suburbs, where eight people tested positive for the COVID-19.

“Thanks to you, the virus has slowed. But it is still there. Save lives, stay cautious,” President Emmanuel Macron wrote on a Twitter message.

As of Sunday, France had reported 26,380 coronavirus-related deaths, up by 70 in one day, the lowest daily death toll in nearly two months, while the number of patients in intensive care keeps falling. The total number of confirmed cases had reached 139,063.

Currently, a single positive case in France can infect less than one person, with the R0 rate slightly over 0.6 percent, Health Minister Olivier Veran said.

“We know that when we gradually lift the confinement there will be the R0 rise. What we want is to maintain the rate below 1 so that the epidemic declines,” the minister said.

“De-confinement is not a return to the life as before,” he said, adding that a lockdown may be instituted again if the virus spreads rapidly after easing restrictions.

To Pascal Crepey, an epidemiologist, the risk of the virus resurgence remains high and depends on the success of the first phase of the de-confinement.

“The risk of an epidemic resurgence exists as long as there is no vaccine neither treatment. All measures that aim to slow the epidemic spread are good, including barrier gestures, mask. If they are respected, surely, they will help to make the virus situation under control,” Crepey told Xinhua.

“A strategy based on gradual phases will allow limiting and reacting quickly to a possible rebound of the epidemic,” he said.

“We must act carefully and step by step to be able to see what impact the first phase of the de-confinement will have on the epidemic and according to this impact, we can either continue or go back,” he added.

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Covid-19: France to lose 3 per cent of GDP per month of lockdown



France says it is likely to lose three per cent of its annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) monthly due to the country’s coronavirus lockdown.

The country’s national statistics bureau INSEE stated this on Thursday in an economic forecast taking account of the epidemic.

France had lost about 35 per cent of its economic activity as a result of the country’s coronavirus lockdown, the bureau said.

The country implemented a strict lockdown on March 17, for an initial 15-day period.

However, with more than 25,000 confirmed infections and 1,311 deaths as of Wednesday, government health advisers said it was likely to be extended until late April.

Meanwhile, workers had been instructed to work from home, and some major employers such as carmakers Renault and PSA had since shut down plants citing supply chain and health issues.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, said, “we all know the GDP loss will be much more significant than the minus one per cent growth estimate included in a mini-budget.

INSEE estimated that construction sector was down 89 per cent in terms of activity, with non-food industry down 52 per cent, traded services down 36 per cent and non-traded services down 14 per cent.

Earlier, French Government had appealed to vital sectors of the economy to keep going in spite lockdown.

It, however, promised 45 billion euros (or 49.5 billion dollars) in immediate aid to firms and workers hit by the crisis, as well as a 300-billion-euro guarantee for commercial bank loans.

Meanwhile, the country’s public transport capacity was cut sharply back as the lockdown went into its 10th day.

State railway company SNCF said only 40 TGV high speed trains would run countrywide, seven per cent of the usual service which had already been cut back sharply in recent days.

The Paris metro was also running a reduced schedule with an early shut-down at 10 p.m (2100 GMT).

The smaller of the capital’s two main airports, Orly, is due to shut down with effect from 11.30 p.m on Tuesday.

Airlines have drastically reduced their schedules and France, like other EU countries, has banned the entry of most non-EU citizens who are not already legal residents.

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Isaac Aregbesola
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France plans Europe’s first high-speed medical train for Covid-19



France is planning to use Europe’s first “medicalised” high-speed train to transfer Covid-19 patients, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday.

The specially adapted TGV train will transfer patients from overworked hospitals in the Alsace region to other parts of the country on Wednesday, Veran told the National Assembly.

The French military has also evacuated intensive care patients by air from Alsace and by helicopter-carrier from the Mediterranean island of Corsica.

Hospitals are under strain in both regions due to severe outbreaks.

Defence Minister Florence Parly tweeted that a military field hospital newly set up in the Alsatian city of Mulhouse had received its first patient on Tuesday.

In total, France had recorded 19,856 confirmed coronavirus infections as of Monday evening, and 860 deaths of hospitalised patients.

Meanwhile, there was growing concern about the situation in old people’s homes, where deaths are not recorded in those statistics.

In Vosges department, near Alsace, local authorities have said that an old people’s home with a total of 164 places has recorded 20 deaths “with a possible link with Covid-19.”

The mayor of Saint Dizier in eastern France told broadcaster BFMTV that there had been 15 deaths at one home in her town.

Veran said the government had told regional health authorities to collect information about the situation in old people’s homes.

“We cannot have all that information in real time but we want to be completely transparent,” he insisted.

Edited By: Fatima Sule/Ali Baba-Inuwa
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Thai soldier who went on deadly rampage shot dead by security forces




A soldier who went on a deadly rampage in Thailand, killing more than 20 people and injuring dozens of others, has been shot dead by security forces, police confirmed.

“It’s over now,” Police Chief Chakthip Chaijinda told reporters in Nakhon Ratchasima, north-east of the capital Bangkok early Sunday.

The shooter was shot dead in a mall where he had holed up, police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen also confirmed in a statement.

The shooter was identified as 32-year-old Sergeant Jakrapanth Thomma.

He reportedly shot dead his commanding officer before stealing heavy weapons and a military Humvee from a military base and going on a killing frenzy.

He shot and killed dozens of people in his path as he fled, including at a Buddhist temple.

He then went on a rampage at a shopping mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, north-east of the capital Bangkok.

The shooter, who had posted parts of his spree on social media, reportedly had a dispute with his commanding officer over money.


Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim

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