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France returns artefacts to Morocco

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France has returned 20 archaeological pieces to Morocco, including human bones, dating back to prehistoric times, according to a statement by the Moroccan Culture Ministry on Monday.

The antiquities, discovered in Rouazi cemetery, 26 kilometres south of the capital Rabat, were transferred to the University of Bordeaux for further examination and restoration, the statement read.

The returned pieces will help create a reference for researchers interested in studying prehistoric Morocco, it noted.

The archaeological site of Rouazi, where the returned bones were excavated, was discovered in 1979.

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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France enters second phase in easing of cononavirus restrictions

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Basking in spring sunshine, restaurants, bars and cafes throughout France reopened their doors to customers on Tuesday morning with tables positioned at least one meter apart, kicking off the second phase of de-confinement in the country.

Museums and parks are now allowed to welcome back visitors, students are returning to schools and people can visit swimming pools, gyms, amusement parks and theaters again in so-called “green” zones where the lockdown curbs are further relaxed.

Unlimited travel is now permitted between the country’s regions, and people can once again enjoy the sun and the sea as the beaches have also reopened.

Like millions of French citizens, Narjess, 41, an English teacher at a training center in Paris, enjoyed this big day after she had been forced to stay at home for nearly three months.

At last, I can find my daily life as before the confinement. It’s a great pleasure. I’m so happy to see again my colleagues and students, and this fills me with energy,” she said.

She told Xinhua she planned to celebrate “this beautiful day” by joining her friends later in the day for a drink in a bar, a first since March 17.

France had started 15-day nationwide confinement at midday on March 17 to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The confinement was extended twice and ended on May 11, when France cautiously started the first phase in easing some restrictions.

During this second phase, “freedom will become the rule again and bans will be the exception,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said last week when he unveiled his de-confinement strategy.

However, the greater Paris area (Ile-de-France region) as well as the overseas territories of Mayotte and Guiana remains “exceptions.” In these areas, still in the higher-risk “orange” category, restaurants, bars and cafes can serve their clients on outdoor terraces only. People there must wait three more weeks if they want to go to swimming pools, attend concerts or exercise outdoors.

“The reopening of cafes, hotels and restaurants marks the return of happy days! There is no doubt that the French will find this part of the French spirit, our culture and our way of life again,” President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.

About 300,000 restaurants and cafes were allowed to receive customers on Tuesday, 60,000 of them in Paris and its suburbs. Some 500,000 workers in the sector resumed their work, according to Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

Since mid-April, the coronavirus situation in France has improved, paving the way for the government to further relax the restrictions, allowing a gradual return to normalcy while maintaining a high level of vigilance to avoid a second wave.

As of Monday, France had 14,288 people hospitalized with COVID-19 infection, 1,302 of them in intensive care. The overall death toll stood at 28,833, with a single day-rise of 31, the lowest daily toll since early April when the pandemic was at its peak and took as many lives as 1,400 in one day.

“This good news should not make us forget that the virus is still circulating in national territory and remains dangerous,” the Health Ministry warned.

To Genevieve Chene, head of the public health agency Sante Publique France (SPF), “the indicators are very favorable.” However, she warned that the virus is still here even if its circulation is slowing.

“We should remain cautious. This is the first time that we see this virus, and this epidemic has produced some surprises, such as the contagiousness of asymptomatic cases,” Chene told France 2 TV.

(XINHUA)

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France to further unwind anti-coronavirus lockdown

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France’s COVID-19 death toll up 57 to 28,771

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France on Saturday recorded 57 new COVID-19 deaths, taking the tally to 28,771, while fewer hospitalized patients were registered for the seventh week in a row.

In a statement, the country’s Health Ministry said the human loss caused by the disease rose by 0.3 percent in hospitals to 18,444, while that of nursing homes and other medico-social establishments would be updated on June 2.

Some 14,380 people infected were receiving treatment in hospital, down from 14,695 on Friday. The number of patients in intensive care units dropped by 36 to 1,325, it added.

Since the start of the pandemic, 101,593 people with the COVID-19 have been admitted to hospitals in France, of whom 17,933 required life support, while 68,268 patients have recovered.

France will enter “phase two” of deconfinement from Tuesday. The nationwide 100-km travel restriction will be lifted and bars, restaurants, cafes, beaches, museums will reopen in low risk zones.

In the greater Paris region, classified as “orange zone” where the virus continues to circulate faster than other regions, the non-essential activities would fully resume on June 22.

(XINHUA)

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Daily COVID-19 deaths hit one-week low in France

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The number of COVID-19 fatalities in France was up to 28,714 after 52 new patients died in the last 24 hours, the lowest daily tally in a week, the French Health Ministry said on Friday.

COVID-19 patients in intensive care units went down to 1,361 from 1,429 on Thursday, continuing a downward trend for nearly seven weeks.

Since the start of the epidemic, France has 149,668 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up from 149,071 on Thursday. As of Friday, 14,695 patients remained hospitalized, 513 fewer than a day before, while 67,803 have been cured and returned home, a single-day increase of 612.

France will enter “phase two” of deconfinement from Tuesday. The nationwide 100-km travel restriction will be lifted and bars, restaurants, cafes, parks, beaches, museums will reopen. But in the greater Paris region, the easing of restrictions will be more cautious.

“This good news, which is the result of good behavior and respect of barrier measures (during “phase one” of deconfinement since May 11), should not make us forget that the virus is still circulating on national territory and that it remains dangerous,” the ministry warned.

(XINHUA)

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France’s Renault to slash around 15,000 jobs worldwide

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France‘s second leading carmaker Renault on Friday announced that it would cut 14,600 posts worldwide and reduce production capacity over the next three years in order to save 2 billion euros (2.22 billion U.S. dollars) and focus on profitable segments of activities.

The workforce adjustment project concerned 4,600 jobs in France and would be based on retraining measures, internal mobility and voluntary departures, said Renault in a statement.

Stretching over three years, the plan would enable the group to return to profitable and sustainable growth, strengthen the company’s resilience by focusing on cash flow generation, while keeping the customer at the centre of its priorities, it added.

As part of the restructuring scheme, Renault said it would reduce its global production capacity to 3.3 million vehicles in 2024 from the current 4 million by suspending capacity increase projects in Morocco and Romania and adjusting capacity in Russia.

In France, the group would be organized around strategic business areas with a promising future such as electric vehicles, light commercial vehicles (LCVs) and high value-added innovation.

“In a context of uncertainty and complexity, this project is vital to guarantee a solid and sustainable performance, with customer satisfaction as a priority,” said Clotilde Delbos, Renault interim chief executive officer.

“By capitalizing on our many assets such as the electric vehicle, by capitalizing on the resources and technologies of Groupe Renault and the Alliance, and by reducing the complexity of development and production of our vehicles, we want to generate economies of scale to restore our overall profitability and ensure our development in France and internationally,” she added. (1 euro = 1.11 U.S. dollar)

(XINHUA)

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France to further ease lockdown as COVID-19 situation improves

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France will further unwind anti-coronavirus lockdown from June 2, lifting 100-km travel restriction and allowing non-essential businesses, parks and beaches to reopen, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Thursday.

The last three weeks of the first phase of deconfinement had “good results,” Philippe told a press meeting. “During this phase 2, freedom will become the rule again and bans will be the exception.”

The prime minister, however, warned that “the virus is still present at different speeds throughout the territory.” He stressed that high vigilance was recommended in Paris and Ile-de-France region and two overseas departments of Mayotte and Guiana where the virus was circulating faster that other zones.

Starting from next week, the order which forced people to stay within 100 kilometers of their homes will be lifted, but the ban on gathering of more than 10 people is maintained. Night clubs and stadiums will remain closed.

Restaurants, cafes and bars in low risk areas will be able to receive customers, providing they respect health protocol and social distancing. In Great Paris region, classified as “orange” zone, they can only open outside spaces to avoid a resurgence of the epidemic.

All the cities will also be allowed to reopen parks and public gardens. In “orange” zones, people should wear a mask when in parks and public gardens. Colleges and high schools will be able to reopen.

Access to beaches, monuments, museums, gymnasiums, swimming pools will be permitted, except in the capital and surrounding areas, which should wait for three more weeks.

From June 22, holiday resorts, cinemas can also open with strict respect of social distancing rules.

From June 15, France will open its borders to European visitors without imposing a two-week quarantine, Philippe added.

France has started to lift a national lockdown on May 11 by resuming gradually economic activities while ramping up tests and increasing vigilance to avoid the epidemic resurgence.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said the virus’ reproduction rate, known as the “R0” rate, was below 1 almost across the whole country. That means each person who caught the virus is infecting less than one person and so the epidemic is regressing.

“What determines this variable is you and your behaviour, social distancing, wearing of masks and other safety measures,” said Veran.

As of Thursday, France had 15,208 people hospitalized with the COVID-19, 472 down from a day before. The number of patients in intensive care fell by 72 to 1,429. Coronavirus-related fatalities increased by 66 to 28,662, according to figures released by the Health Ministry.

(XINHUA)

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France’s COVID-19 death toll up by 66 to 28,596

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With 66 new deaths of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, France‘s death toll from the coronavirus-caused disease has risen to 28,596 as of Wednesday, according to official figures.

The number of fatalities rose by 65 to 18,260 in hospitals while the death toll in nursing homes and medico-social establishments, which was 10,335 on Tuesday, would be updated on Friday, said the Health Ministry.

As of Wednesday, 15,680 people with the COVID-19 remained hospitalized, 584 down from a day before. The number of patients in intensive care, a key gauge to evaluate the health system’s ability to cope with the epidemic, fell by 54 to 1,501, confirming a downward trend for the sixth week in a row.

The government is preparing a second phase of rules relaxation, which could include the reopening of bars, cafes and restaurants in some regions. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will unveil the details on Thursday afternoon.

France has started to lift a national lockdown on May 11 by reinforcing testing capacity, reopening gradually schools and shops, allowing people to move freely, while maintaining distancing rules and barrier gestures.

In a further move to prevent an eventual second wave of the epidemic, French lawmakers on Wednesday gave the green light to deploy “StopCOVID” contact-tracing smartphone app that could warn people voluntarily using it if they come into contact with a coronavirus carrier.

The state-supported app will be launched on June 2 when the second phase of deconfinement begins.

(XINHUA)

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France bans hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients

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France on Wednesday banned the use of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat patients suffering severe forms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“Whether in town or in hospitals, this molecule should not be prescribed for COVID-19 patients,” said the Health Ministry.

The decision came after the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that it had suspended a global trial of the malaria drug on COVID-19 patients while the safety data is being reviewed.

Last week, a study published in British medical journal The Lancet said patients receiving the drug, used alone or with a macrolide, had a higher mortality rate.

On March 26, France allowed the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat specific situations of COVID-19 patients, in hospitals only.

According to the WHO, over 400 hospitals in 35 countries were recruiting patients and nearly 3,500 patients have been enrolled from 17 countries under the Solidarity Trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of four drugs and drug combinations against COVID-19, which include hydroxychloroquine.

(XINHUA)

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France GDP likely to contract by 20 pct in Q2, says national statistics bureau

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France‘s economy is likely to contract by 20 percent in the second quarter (Q2) this year, deepening a recession in the eurozone’s second-largest power where the coronavirus crisis had prompted the worst post-war economic turmoil, national statistics institute INSEE said on Wednesday.

INSEE added that the economy could contract 8 percent for the whole year of 2020 if activities return to the pre-crisis level by July.

However, “such a rapid return to normal seems unrealistic,” it noted. “Despite the massive monetary and budgetary support, there are many reasons for the economy not to return to normal before long months.”

The French economy contracted by 5.8 percent in the first quarter this year. Between March 17 and May 10, the country was in lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Now in its third week of de-confinement, France saw its economic activities resuming “cautiously but clearly” in major sectors, including industry, construction and services, according to INSEE.

As a result, France could limit loss in its economic activities in May to 21 percent below the normal level, instead of 33 percent as INSEE had estimated earlier this month.

In a separate statement, INSEE said consumer’s confidence continued to deteriorate in May but at a slower pace. The index fell by two points to 93, after dropping by 8 points in April.

Households’ opinion balance about the future standard of living remained at minus 71, the lowest level ever since the beginning of the survey, while fears about the unemployment trend have sharply increased by 18 points, reaching the highest level since June 2013, it added.

Speaking to Radio Classique, Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire confirmed that “the recovery is real but gradual.”

“The shutdown (of economic activities) was severe. We must expect very degraded recession figures for 2020 in France,” he said. “The violence of the economic crisis calls for a massive, frank and immediate European response.”

(XINHUA)

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