French Grand Prix cancelled

by Steve Martindale

The French Grand Prix has become the 10th race of the Formula 1 season to be cancelled due the ongoing health crisis. The cancellation of the race, which was due to take place on 28th June, had been seen as inevitable following the government’s announcement of a ban on all mass gatherings until mid-July.

The statement calling off the race said that organisers “take note of the impossibility to maintain the Formula 1 Grand Prix de France on 28 June”, and French Grand Prix managing director Eric Boullier said in a statement that eyes “were turning towards the summer of 2021”.

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€12 billion rescue package for Air France and Renault

by Steve Martindale

The French government has put together unprecedented financial rescue packages for two of the country’s largest employers. Announcing the loans, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said they would help carmaker Renault and flag-carrier Air France through the crisis caused by the coronavirus, but that they would come with strings attached, most notably regarding improvements in green credentials.

Air France has been given a €7 billion loan – €4 billion in bank loans guaranteed by the State and a further €3 billion loan direct from the State. “We need to save our national company and the 350,000 direct and indirect employees affected,” Le Maire said, while denying that the the loans were a first step to nationalisation. “We are behind Air France, behind the employees of Air France to guarantee our independence and save jobs.”

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Paris Mint strikes coronavirus fundraising coin

by Steve Martindale

To thank the country’s front-line workers, the Paris Mint has designed a new collectable coin, with the majority of profits being donated to charity. The Merci Medal is available via the website of the Monnaie de Paris and costs €8, of which €6 will be donated to the Fondation de France initiative “Tous unis contre le virus”, which aims to finance research projects as well as to support local social professionals and charities working with the most vulnerable.​

The medals are already being struck and will be sent out from mid-June, although the Monnaie de Paris has already promised that the first 1,000 will be donated for free to the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris and the CHU de Bordeaux, two institutions at the forefront of the coronavirus fight.

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La Poste increases deliveries

by Steve Martindale

Philippe Wahl, president of the country’s postal system, has announced that La Poste will be increasing the number of weekly deliveries to four. When the lockdown was initially announced, La Poste had restricted deliveries to just three days each week: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

From the week beginning 20th April, post will now also be delivered on Tuesdays. Note that for the subsequent two weeks, deliveries will be made Monday to Thursday, since 1st and 8th May are bank holidays.

The postal system came under pressure in the early days of the lockdown as it fought to strike a balance between protecting its employees and maintaining an important public service. La Poste faced particular criticism for reducing its deliveries to just three days a week from the country’s press, who were unable to deliver daily newspapers.

“We are a nationwide network,” explained Eric Rigaud, the head of a La Poste logistics centre in Limoges, in response to complaints about the time it has taken to adapt to the new health standards required. “As a group, we distribute everywhere, every day and across the whole country. We can not change our organisation from one day to the next as easily as a company with just a few employees.”

Income tax return dates

by Steve Martindale

Despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis, you do unfortunately still need to submit your annual income tax return, although the deadlines have been extended to give people more time to do so. The vast majority of us are required to fill in our tax returns online and the website officially opened for submissions on Monday 20th April.

The deadline for tax declaration varies depending on the department in which you live, and following the extension, the 2020 deadlines for declaring your 2019 income are:

  • Departments 01 to 19 (zone 1) & non-residents – Thursday 4th June at 23:59
  • Departments 20 to 54 (zone 2) – Monday 8th June at 23:59
  • Departments 55 to 974/976 (zone 3) – Thursday 11th June at 23:59
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Court bans Amazon from selling non-essential items

by Steve Martindale

A French court has ordered Amazon to stop selling all but the most essential items while officials assess the safety standards at its warehouses. Fining the online retailer €1m per day if it fails to comply, the court said Amazon had “failed to recognise its obligations regarding the security and health of its workers”. From today the company may now only sell food, hygiene and medical products direct from its warehouses.

Amazon has previously said that it abides by health and safety guidelines and announced it will appeal the ruling.

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Tour de France postponed to 29 August

by Steve Martindale

Following the government’s extension of a ban on mass gatherings due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic until mid-July, this year’s Tour de France has now officially been postponed. This year’s edition of Le Tour had been due to run from 27 June to 19 July, but will now take place between 29 August and 20 September according to sources close to race organisers, who have yet to comment officially.

No announcements have been made by the major teams, but Britain’s Chris Froome had been due to join the peloton, one year after breaking his neck, femur, elbow, hip and ribs in a crash, as had previous winner Geraint Thomas who was pipped to the title last year by teammate Egan Bernal. “It’s the pinnacle of cycling,” said the Welsh rider following news of the postponement. “It represents the sport and certainly it’s the thing that’s keeping me going at the minute. You’ve just got that target down the line.”

Coronavirus: Deconfinement to begin from 11th May

by Steve Martindale

In a televised address watched by a record 36.7 million people, President Emmanuel Macron confirmed last night that the current lockdown will continue for a further four weeks. “The 11th May will be the start of a new phase,” the president told the nation. “It will be progressive and the rules will be adapted according to initial results.”

From this date, creches and schools (maternelle, primaire, collège and lycée) will gradually reopen across the country, starting with the least at-risk areas, but higher education establisments will remain closed until the summer. Bars, cafés and restaurants will also not immediately be able to reopen and neither will cinemas, theatres and museums.

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Coronavirus: Macron to announce lockdown extension

by Steve Martindale

President Emmanuel Macron had been expected to give a televised update on the coronavirus situation this evening, Thursday 9th April. This has now been pushed back to the evening of Monday 13th April, although it has been confirmed that he will be announcing an extension to the lockdown period at that time.

The lockdown is currently due to end on April 15th; it is widely expected that this will be extended for at least a further fortnight.

Nationwide bird count

by Steve Martindale

One of the many challenges of lockdown has been finding fun activities to keep our minds and bodies active. The country’s bird protection organisation, the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) is encouraging people to get out into their gardens and help in a national bird survey.

Participants in the study are being asked to spend a set amount of time – ten minutes is plenty – studying the same area of outdoor space every day and making a note of the birds that they see. Only those which land in the area should be counted. You can then input your findings on their website.

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