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French crime reports sharply down after virus lockdown

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 Statistics released on Monday showed a sharp drop in reports of most categories of crime in France in March, the month that saw strict coronavirus lockdown introduced.

The Interior Ministry’s statistical service said it would be “extremely complex” to interpret the statistics, noting that the lockdown made it much harder for victims to report offences.

The figures showed reports of beatings and assaults causing injury were down 33 per cent on February.

Various categories of theft from persons as well as burglaries were down between 43 and 51 per cent, but murders were unchanged.

The service noted that “certain forms of crime cannot be carried out in the context of a lockdown, while others become more common.”

Since the lockdown only came into effect on March 17, it would be necessary to wait for April’s statistics to see its full effect, the service said.

With authorities warning of scams relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, Paris police meanwhile, said that they had shut down four fraudulent websites that purported to sell face masks and alcohol-based sanitizing gel.

And amid widespread concern that the lockdown may increase the risk of domestic violence and make it harder for victims to get help, Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa announced the opening of a helpline for potential abusers.

“Protect your family from violence: Get yourself assistance,” Schiappa wrote on Twitter.

Calls seeking the intervention of gendarmes and Paris police in domestic violence rose more than 30 per cent week-on-week after the lockdown came into force, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner in a television interview in March.

Schiappa last week told newspaper France-Ouest that despite that, a hotline for victims of domestic abuse was getting only a sixth of the usual volume of calls.

“There is therefore certainly more domestic violence but it is harder to raise the alert,” she warned. Authorities have also set up a new number for victims to seek help by text message.

The hotline for potential abusers was to be staffed by professionals with expertise on domestic violence and contributory factors such as alcohol and drugs, Schiappa told the newspaper.

“There is no shame in calling,” she said. “On the contrary, you’re being responsible by getting assistance and protecting your family from violence.” .

IAA

Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola
(NAN)

Aregbeshola Isaac: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

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Gov’t support to virus-hit economy amounts to 450 bln euros: French minister

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French government’s rescue measures to limit coronavirus economic fallout and inject dynamism into economic activities have cost 450 billion euros (490.6 billion U.S. dollars), Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday.

“If we take everything that has been done with the budget and in support of businesses’ cash flows, it’s 450 billion euros — 20 percent of the nation’s wealth on the table to save our economy, our enterprises,” Le Maire told BFM TV.

The coronavirus epidemic has forced companies to shut down, plants to halt production, aircraft to ground and millions of people to be put under strict lockdown, triggering the country’s worst economic crisis since the World War II.

To help mitigate the impact, the government has launched a range of measures including state-guaranteed loans, tax relief, specific support plans to worst-hit sectors such as tourism and auto industry, and state-subsidized partial unemployment scheme.

While reining in high spending that pushed up the budget deficit to 9 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), the highest since 1940s, the government eyes repaying billion-worth coronavirus-linked expenditure thanks to boosted growth.

“The question is, when should we repay the loans? Not now. We must not make the same mistakes as after the 2009 crisis: revive the economy and at the same time immediately reduce public spending,” the minister said.

“The time will come when we will have to reimburse and this will be done through growth, it is our strategic choice. We must develop and modernize the industry, cross a technological course and find room for maneuver that will allow us to repay,” he added.

The French government expected the GDP to shrink by 8 percent and public debt to hit 115 percent of the GDP this year. (1 euro = 1.09 U.S. dollars)

(XINHUA)

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Lyon president says French League’s halt to Ligue 1 was “stupid’’

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Olympique Lyonnais president Jean-Michel Aulas again lashed out at the French League for ending the Ligue 1 football season early amid the COVID-19, calling the decision “stupid”.

Aulas spoke after La Liga on Saturday got the Spanish government’s green light to resume play.

Matches will likely begin on June 12, according to League president Javier Tebas.

“In the past two months, the Spanish officials have been observing and working with UEFA,” Aulas said on Sunday, referring to European football’s governing body.

“What is paradoxical is that Javier Tebas, in particular, attended the same meetings than (French League director-general) Didier Quillot, notably that of April 23.

“In fact, what was said at that meeting with UEFA is `patience’. When we see that our officials attended this meeting and drew different conclusions, one can feel that we are really too stupid.”

The French League ended the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons last month with 10 games remaining, meaning that seventh-placed Lyon were denied a European spot through the league standings.

Lyon’s appeal before an administrative tribunal was rejected on Friday, but they are now expected to lodge another appeal before the State Council, France’s highest court, alongside relegated Amiens and Toulouse.

Asked if he would have had the same reaction had Lyon been in a position to qualify for the UEFA Champions League when Ligue 1 was suspended in March, Aulas said: “I swear I would have, I swear on my children’s lives.”

(
Edited By: Emmanuel Okara and Olawale Alabi) (NAN)

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Rwanda’s most-wanted genocide suspect appears before French court

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Arraignment

Paris/The Hague, Felicien Kabuga, accused of funding the 1994 Rwandan genocide, appeared before a French court on Wednesday, four days after his arrest following a quarter of a century on the run.

In his first appearance in public in more than two decades, the octogenarian was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair, dressed in jeans and a blue jumper and wearing a face mask.

Kabuga has been indicted by UN prosecutors for genocide and incitement to commit genocide, among other charges.

He is accused of bankrolling and arming the ethnic Hutu militias which killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus over 100 days.

Rwanda’s most wanted fugitive, he was arrested on Saturday in a Paris suburb.

The court’s three judges, who are due to decide whether to transfer Kabuga to the UN tribunal – adjourned the hearing to May 27.

Kabuga’s lawyers said he wanted a trial in France and accused the country’s chief public prosecutor of trying to rush the legal process.

“Mr Kabuga is an old man, he’s tired and sick,” lawyer Laurent Bayon told the judges. “The prosecutor wants to be rid of Mr Kabuga.”

The UN tribunal’s prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, said a request had already been launched for Kabuga’s transfer into UN custody and that he could initially be held in The Hague rather than Africa because of coronavirus travel restrictions.

It “is definitely an option” for a first legal phase to be conducted in The Hague, Brammertz said.

Two policeman stood behind Kabuga, whose voice was weak but audible as he confirmed through an interpreter his identity and parents’ names. He gave his date of birth as March 1, 1933.

Kabuga’s arrest marked the end of a more than two-decade long hunt that spanned Africa and Europe.

The one-time tea and coffee tycoon is accused of being a main financier of the genocide, paying for the militias that carried out the massacres, as well as importing huge numbers of machetes, according to the UN tribunal’s indictment.

He also co-owned a media group whose radio station broadcast anti-Tutsi messages that fanned the ethnic hatred. The United States had placed a five million dollars bounty on his head.

Kabuga was the most high-profile fugitive of the UN tribunal which tried Rwanda genocide suspects in Arusha, Tanzania, known as the ICTR. It closed five years ago, but a successor body still operates there and in the Netherlands.

The ICTR was at the centre of efforts to set new standards in international justice, though incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame said it was too slow and too inefficient.

Other critics said it was too focused on prosecuting Hutus and not Kagame’s Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front.

Kabuga’s defence team said they would later seek his release on bail. Exiting the courtroom, Kabuga raised his fist as several relatives including one son voiced encouragement.

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Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

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Indicted Rwandan genocide suspect Kabuga appears before French court

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Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga indicted in his absence on charges of bankrolling ethnic militias that massacred some 800,000 people in 1994 was brought before a French court on Wednesday.

In his first appearance in public in more than two decades, the octogenarian was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair, dressed in jeans and a blue jumper and wearing a face mask.

He spoke to confirm his identity.

Kabuga was arrested on Saturday in a Paris suburb and the court is to decide whether to transfer him for trial to a UN war crimes tribunal.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Silas Nwoha (NAN)

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Rwandan genocide suspect Kabuga brought before French court

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Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga was arraigned before a French public prosecutor on Tuesday, three days after police swooped on his hideout in a Paris suburb, ending a 26-year manhunt.

The 84-year-old is accused of funding and arming militias that massacred about 800,000 people. He was indicted in 1997 on seven criminal counts including genocide, all in relation to the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Kabuga arrived at the Paris Appeals Court complex under heavy police protection. Outriders flanked the convoy and armed officers guarded the entrance. The hearing began about three hours later, a judicial source said.

The prosecutor was to set out the legal process before the case is passed to investigative judges who will decide whether to transfer Kabuga to a U.N. court handling alleged crimes against humanity.

At least one French-based genocide victim support group said it was considering legal action to unearth how Kabuga was able to go underground in France and what help he had received.

“He was our Klaus Barbie, our (Adolf) Eichmann,” said Etienne Nsanzimana, president of support group Ibuka France, referring to two prominent Nazi war criminals.

“How did he stay on the run for 26 years? For how many years was he in France and receiving help to live comfortably? I don’t think it was just his family,” Nsanzimana added.

Reuters has not been able to find any public comment made by Kabuga over the years about the charges. French lawyer Emmanuel Altit, who will be defending Kabuga, did not respond to a request seeking comment from his client.

Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days of killing from April 6, 1994, orchestrated by the Hutu-led government and its ethnic militia allies.

Kabuga, a Hutu businessman, is accused of bankrolling the militia.

It is not known when or how Kabuga, who had a five million dollars bounty on his head, entered France.

France’s justice ministry has said he lived under a false identity in Asnieres-sur-Seine on the outskirts of Paris.

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Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

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French ambassador urges Lebanon to accelerate talks with IMF

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French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher on Monday urged Lebanese officials to accelerate talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be able to unlock CEDRE funds, LBCI local TV channel reported.

“Talks with the IMF and the economic strategy adopted by the cabinet are two very important steps to be able to receive funds from CEDRE,” Foucher said, following a meeting held with Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab at the Grand Serail to discuss latest economic developments.

Foucher noted that the coming days will constitute a very important period to continue talks with the IMF and reach positive results with regard to Lebanon’s economic strategy and necessary reforms.

Meanwhile, Diab said his cabinet is working hard to implement reforms requested by CEDRE and the international community in a bid to restore confidence in Lebanon.

“We will be working in this direction and I am sure we will be able to restore prosperity to our economy,” Diab said.

CEDRE refers to the Conference for Economic Development and Reform through Enterprises, hosted by France in 2018, to help Lebanon raise funds to finance its plan to modernize infrastructure and develop economy.

Lebanon has pledged during CEDRE conference to adopt certain reform measures in a bid to unlock 11 billion U.S. dollars in loans and donations to support its ailing economy.

However, the previous government was incapable of taking measures to implement serious reforms.

The current government is holding talks with the IMF to discuss its economic plan and receive financial and technical support from the fund.

(XINHUA)

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French schools register 70 new COVID-19 cases within week of reopening – Minister

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French schools have registered 70 COVID-19 cases since some of them were allowed to reopen last week, French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Monday.

Under the government’s lockdown exit plan, 40,000 primary schools and kindergartens have reopened in the country’s “green” regions – those with low COVID-19 numbers  since May 11.

Secondary schools are scheduled to resume operations on Monday, while high schools are to remain closed until June.

“Seventy coronavirus cases have been detected in the 40,000 schools that have reopened since May 11 and received 1.4 million school children across the country,” Blanquer said.

The new cases were registered in about 50 schools, which were then closed again.

The closures took place in Mayenne, Finistere, Cantal, Haute-Garonne, Indre-et-Loire, Herault and Nice.

According to Blanquer, nearly 70 per cent of primary school pupils are continuing to learn remotely.

 

Nevertheless, the main goal remains that “every child resumes contact with the school,’’ he noted.

Blanquer also said that as secondary schools begin to reopen in France on Monday, caution is required accordingly.

 

Educational institutions in “red zone’’ regions, however, must wait until at least the end of May before knowing the date of their possible resumption.

France began easing the two-month lockdown restrictions on May 11 with the reopening of schools, non-alimentary shops, cafes, restaurants and other public places in “green zone” regions less affected by the virus.

 

The highly infected “red” regions, however, remain under the local authorities’ strict surveillance.

As of Monday, France has detected a total of 179,693 COVID-19 cases, the sixth highest number in the world, with the death toll at 28,111.

Edited By: Fatima Sule/Obike Ukoh (NAN)

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Iran sentences French academic to six years in prison: lawyer

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Iran has sentenced French-Iranian academic, Fariba Adelkhah, to six years in prison on national security charges, her lawyer said on Saturday.

“The court has sentenced her to six years.

“We have appealed and if accepted, the sentence will drop to five years,’’ Adelkhah’s lawyer, Saeed Dehghan, told Reuters.

Iran dropped spying charges against Adelkhah but she remained in jail on other security-related charges, Dehghan said in March.

Iran has rejected France’s call to release Adelkhah, a 60-year-old anthropologist, who has been detained since June 2019, saying the demand is an interference in Tehran’s internal affairs.

Tehran does not recognise dual nationality.

In March, Iran released Adelkhah’s partner, French academic Roland Marchal, who was imprisoned in Iran since June last year.

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals over recent years, mostly on espionage charges.

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Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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COVID-19 vaccine must serve “global public good”: French authorities

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The French authorities stressed on Thursday that the COVID-19 vaccine must be a “global public good” and it is unacceptable for French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi to serve the United States first if it can deliver such a vaccine in the future.

Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson was quoted by U.S. media as saying on Wednesday that “the U.S. government has the right to the largest pre-order because it’s invested in taking the risk.”

An official at the Elysee told French media: “The declaration of Sanofi boss has upset the President of the Republic because this vaccine must be a global public good…The vaccine should be available to everyone at the same time.”

“A vaccine against COVID-19 should be a public good for the world. The equal access of all to the virus (vaccine) is non-negotiable,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe wrote on Tweeter.

He added that Sanofi’s chairman Serge Weinberg had given him “all the necessary assurances” with regard to the distribution in France of any potential Sanofi vaccine.

Sanofi is among dozens of drug companies that are currently working on vaccine projects against COVID-19. One of its projects involves a partnership with Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services office for preparedness and response.

Olivier Bogillot, head of Sanofi’s French division, told BFM television that “the goal is to have this vaccine available to the U.S. as well as France and Europe at the same time.”

However, he said the Americans are efficient at the moment in investing in vaccine research and that “the European Union has to be more efficient to help us in making this vaccine available very quickly.”

Sanofi representatives will meet presidential officials next week at the Elysee Palace to discuss the issue, local media reported.

(XINHUA)

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French pharmaceutical giant, Sanofi criticised for considering U.S. priority for COVID-19 vaccine 

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French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has come under fire at home after chief executive Paul Hudson suggested the U.S. would get first access to a vaccine the firm is working on for COVID-19.

The company tried to repair the damage on Thursday, with Sanofi France president Olivier Bogillot telling BFMTV television that “if the Europeans work as quickly as the Americans” in supporting research they could get it at the same time.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he had called the company’s chairman, Serge Weinberg, to “remind” him that equal access to the vaccine for everyone was “not negotiable.”

“He gave me all the necessary assurances concerning the distribution in France of any Sanofi vaccine,” Philippe wrote on Twitter.

Hudson told news agency Bloomberg on Wednesday that the U.S. government “has the right to the largest pre-order because it’s invested in taking the risk.”

He was cited as saying that the U.S. could be days or weeks ahead of other countries in getting access to the vaccine, and that Europe needed to step up efforts so as not to be left behind.

Bogillot told broadcaster LCI that U.S. authorities had started working with the company on a vaccine months ago, while in Europe discussions had only started some weeks ago and it was difficult to find “one person to talk to”.

Vaccines normally took years to develop and to get one ready next year, Europe would have to “mobilise at the same speed as the Americans to accelerate all the regulatory steps,” he said.

Sanofi is working on two potential vaccines against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, one of them in conjunction with U.S. government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

Hudson last month said the firm hoped to gain approval for that vaccine in the “mid to second half of 2021,” with the second vaccine also coming on line in the second half of 2021.

In an emailed statement late on Wednesday, Sanofi said it was having “very constructive conversations” with the European Union, France, and Germany to get support similar to that offered by the U.S.

The company said its U.S.-based production would be mainly for the U.S. market, with sites elsewhere covering Europe and the rest of the world.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said Hudson’s comments to Bloomberg “do not in any way correspond to the work under way between Sanofi and the French government.”

“As Emmanuel Macron has indicated, a vaccine against COVID-19 must be a global public good,” Philippe wrote on Twitter.

Hudson’s comments drew anger from the French opposition too, with Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure saying they were “scandalous.”

No French company should be able to “play against our sovereignty in health matters without running the risk of being nationalised,” he said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The European Commission backed the French position, with spokesperson Stefan de Keersmaecker saying that access to any vaccine “needs to be equitable and universal”.

“Solidarity and close coordination is the most effective and the most secure response to … COVID-19,” de Keersmaecker said.

The European Commission last week hosted an international pledging conference where 7.4 billion euros was promised to help develop a vaccine, tests and treatments for global use.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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French gov’t promises 18 bln euros in aid for pandemic-hit tourism sector

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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Thursday announced a package of measures totalling 18 billion euros (about 19.44 billion U.S. dollars) to rescue the tourism sector which was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Tourism is facing the worst test in modern history. Its rescue is a national priority,” Philippe told a press conference following an inter-ministerial meeting.

“The French could leave for holiday in France in the months of July and August,” said Philippe, adding that the free movement might be subjected to “very localized restrictions” in accordance with the evolution of the pandemic.

“The enterprises in tourism and hotel industry are committed to ensuring that they (the customers) are fully reimbursed if the evolution of the epidemic makes it impossible to go on vacation,” he added.

For the whole package of measures, the State’s commitment amounts to 18 billion euros, said Philippe. These include a 6.2-billion-euro plan of guaranteed loans granted to 50,000 companies in the sector.

The “solidarity fund,” set up at the start of the pandemic for enterprises of almost all sectors to weather through the lockdown period, will remain open until the end of 2020 for tourism businesses. A wider exemption of social security contributions is also announced for employees and employers in the sector.

In addition, a post-crisis recovery plan was also envisioned, with an investment pledge totalling 7 billion euros.

“The government does not want to take the risk of leaving a sector, which represents 2 million jobs in France and 8 percent of our national wealth, stricken by the disaster,” said the prime minister.

To mitigate the pandemic economic fallout, the French government has been mobilizing over 110 billion euros to help companies stay afloat through the virus outbreak, consisting, in large part, of partial unemployment scheme, state loan guarantees and tax and payroll charge deferrals.

Beyond the general support plan, the government had launched in March two specific measures to support the tourism sector: allowing tourism professionals to offer their customers the issuance of a credit note valid for 18 months, instead of reimbursement; and adapting registration, classification and labelling procedures during the health emergency period. (1 euro = 1.08 U.S. dollars)

(XINHUA)

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French pharmaceutical giant, Sanofi to make COVID-19 vaccine available to all – Official 

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French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi plans to make any vaccine it develops against the novel coronavirus available to all.

“The vaccine against COVID-19 will be made available to the public at large, regardless of nationality,” the company’s director general Paul Hudson said, according to a tweet from Sanofi France on Wednesday evening.

The message came after Hudson, in an interview with Bloomberg, said the U.S. would have priority because they were the first in line to fund the company’s research.

“The US government has the right to the largest pre-order because it’s invested in taking the risk,” Hudson told Bloomberg.

In April, Sanofi and the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline both said they wanted to work together on a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

If tests are successful, a vaccine could be available in the second half of 2021.

Sanofi said in its Wednesday tweet that its teams are making efforts to accelerate the development of a vaccine.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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French minister says border controls with Germany to stay in place until June 15

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French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Wednesday that controls will stay in place on French borders with Germany until June 15.

(XINHUA)

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French lockdown ends after 54 days, but many restrictions remain

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France’s strict 54-day coronavirus lockdown was officially over on Monday, however many restrictions were due to remain in place.

French people will now be able to leave their homes without carrying a signed declaration as to why they are on the streets and most shops and other workplaces are set to reopen.

However, in a country with one of Europe’s highest COVID-19 death tolls, 26,380 as of Sunday, authorities are anxious to keep social mingling to a minimum for the moment.

“Anyone who can continue to work from home should still do so.

“Cafes and restaurants will remain shuttered for the moment,” the government said.

The government also said primary schools would reopen gradually starting this week, with middle schools reopening the week after only in areas less affected by COVID-19.

It said signed declarations would still be required for anyone taking public transport at peak hours in the greater Paris region, with usage reserved for commuters and those on essential trips.

The government said masks would be required on public transport nationwide, and travel restrictions remained between mainland France, the Mediterranean island of Corsica, and overseas territories.

It said in Paris and north-eastern France, categorised as “red zones” with a higher rate of COVID-19 infections or hospitalisations, public parks would remain closed.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Salif Atojoko (NAN)

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Russian president congratulates U.S., British, French leaders on 75th anniversary of WWII victory

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Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the leaders and people of the United States, Britain and France on the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II, the Kremlin said Friday.

In a message to U.S. President Donald Trump, Putin emphasized that Russia retains a grateful memory of the contributions of the Allies to the common victory and will never forget the Soviet-U.S. military alliance.

Russia and the United States today are at the forefront of confronting global challenges, and by following the traditions of cooperation laid down during the war, the two countries can do much to ensure international security and stability, he added.

In a message to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Putin said “the great victory has become a major event of the 20th century, which is of lasting importance for the fate of all mankind.”

Putin expressed confidence that the memory of the military fraternity in the war era will help develop constructive Russian-British dialogue and interaction in the fight against current threats and challenges.

Also in a message to French President Emmanuel Macron, the Russian president said that the feats of the French Normandie-Niemen squadron pilots who fought on the Soviet-German front will forever remain in the hearts of Russians.

He also stressed Russian-French cooperation in the current difficult international situation.

(XINHUA)

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French hospital says first suspected COVID-19 cases weeks earlier than official record in country

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The first suspected cases of COVID-19 infection in France could date back to Nov. 16 last year, some nine weeks earlier than the official record of the country’s first confirmed cases, a hospital in eastern France said Thursday.

“Doctor Michel Schmitt, head of the medical imaging department at the Albert Schweitzer hospital in Colmar, has reviewed 2,456 chest scans performed between Nov. 1 and April 30, for all reasons (cardiac, pulmonary, traumatic, tumor pathologies),” said the hospital in a press release.

The typical scans compatible with COVID-19 infection have been also reviewed in a second then a third reading by two other experienced radiologists. According to this retrospective study, the first cases of contamination with COVID-19 were thus identified from Nov. 16 in this hospital, it said.

Albert Schweitzer hospital added that it has launched a collaboration with France‘s National Center for Scientific Research to start an epidemiological exploitation of these results.

Before this announcement, the first case of COVID-19 infection in east France was officially identified in late February. It involved a 36-year-old man who returned from a trip to Lombardy, then hotspot of the epidemic in Italy.

The first COVID-19 infection cases officially recorded in France were on Jan. 24, 2020 relating to individuals who had recently arrived or returned from China.

France on Thursday registered 178 new deaths caused by the novel coronavirus, taking the tally to 25,987. As hospitalization data continued to slow, the government said on Thursday that the country would start to unwind the nearly-two-month anti-coronavirus lockdown from Monday.

(XINHUA)

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EU’s Libya mission begins with French vessel, Luxembourg aircraft 

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A new European Union (EU) operation to uphold an arms embargo against Libya began its activities in the Mediterranean Sea this week with a French naval vessel and a Luxembourg patrol aircraft.

This is based on a statement issued on Thursday.

Operation Irini formally launched on April 1, replacing a previous EU naval mission, the vessels of which were grounded last year amid a migration dispute among EU capitals.

Irini is the bloc’s main contribution to international efforts at brokering a lasting peace in conflict-ridden Libya.

However, it took some time to generate the forces necessary to carry out the new operation, hampered also by the coronavirus pandemic.

Since Monday, the French anti-aircraft frigate Jean Bart has been at sea, the Defence Ministry in Paris announced.

It is accompanied by a Luxembourg maritime patrol aircraft, according to a statement issued out of the operation’s Rome headquarters.

“Other assets offered by member states will join the operation in the coming weeks and months,” said operation commander Fabio Agostini.

The French vessel will be able to monitor sea lines of communication as well as air traffic flows, according to the statement.

Paris also dispatched a light stealth frigate in recent days, the Defence Ministry said.

Greece and Italy are due to each supply a further vessel, while Malta is providing a boarding team.

Besides, Luxembourg, Germany, and Poland have also each pledged a patrol aircraft.

Furthermore, ships and planes are to be available in a supporting capacity.

Germany’s Bundestag voted on Thursday to approve the deployment of up to 300 German soldiers to join the mission.

The operation’s core mission is to prevent the flow of arms into Libya by sea and air. The oil-rich Northern African country has been in turmoil since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Moamer Gaddafi, becoming a battleground for rival proxy forces.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

 

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German reporter accuses former French president of sexual harassment 

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A German reporter came forward on Thursday with an allegation of sexual harassment against former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

Ann-Kathrin Stracke, a reporter for the German broadcaster WDR, told dpa that he groped her buttocks multiple times after an interview she conducted with him in Paris in December 2018.

“I’ve thought about going public with it for a long time,” she said.

The situation was “extremely degrading, extremely belittling”.

Stracke has made a criminal complaint with French authorities.

Giscard d’Estaing’s lawyer told dpa on Thursday that his client had no knowledge of a sexual harassment complaint made by a German journalist.

Jean-Marc Fedida said that Giscard d’Estaing had no recollection of the events described by Stracke and did not know anything about the legal complaint.

He said that Giscard d’Estaing himself would not comment on the accusations at the moment, but added that the former French head of state considered the whole thing to be a “particularly undignified and hurtful media attack”.

A request for comment with the Paris public prosecutor’s office regarding the criminal charges remains unanswered.

The newspapers Le Monde, and Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that the former head of state could neither remember the situation nor the interview.

Le Monde quoted his office manager Oliver Revol as saying: “If what he (Giscard) is accused of is true, he would of course be upset, but he doesn’t remember anything.”

WDR said on its website: “On May 4, Giscard d’Estaing’s lawyer announced that the office of the former president had no knowledge of the criminal charges and would therefore not respond.”

Giscard d’Estaing, who is 94, was president of France from 1974 to 1981.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Germany’s restart shows French league could still conclude, says Lyon boss

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Germany’s plan to restart its top soccer league gives hope that France could still complete the abandoned Ligue 1 season, Olympique Lyonnais president Jean-Michel Aulas said on Thursday.

The French professional league (LFP) ended its season last week with 10 games left, awarding the title to Paris St Germain and leaving Lyon outside the placings for European competition next season.

Aulas this week said his club had suffered a ‘loss of opportunity’ and warned he would claim ‘millions of Euros in damages’ from unspecified bodies.

On Wednesday, the German Bundesliga said it planned to re-start on May 15, making it the first of Europe’s top soccer leagues to get under way following the novel coronavirus stoppage.

“I’ve noted that training had resumed in almost 10 European countries. By adapting our method, we would probably have been able to complete the season,” Aulas told French sports daily L’Equipe.

“We’re on a wrong track but it’s not too late to try and think (…) about something coherent.

“As long as there’s life, there’s hope. For all the people whose main argument to tell us to stop was that all the other leagues would stop, (Germany’s decision) is a very important step,” Aulas replied when asked until when France could change their decision.

After finishing the season in seventh place, Lyon must either win the League Cup or the Champions League to gain a European place next season.

The League Cup final against PSG has been postponed indefinitely.

The Spanish Liga, Italian Serie A and England’s Premier League hope to restart, but have not yet announced dates to begin.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)

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French League to take out loan due to Coronavirus pandemic

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The French League (LFP) will take out a state guaranteed loan to pay clubs in its top two tiers.

The loan was money they would have received from television broadcasts, if the season had not been abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it said on Monday.

The LFP decided to end the 2019-20 season on Thursday, with Paris St Germain being awarded the Ligue 1 title and Lorient crowned Ligue 2 champions.

PSG had a comfortable 12-point lead over second-placed Olympique de Marseille when professional soccer was suspended in March with 10 games left, as part of the French government’s measures to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

“At a meeting on May 4, the LFP’s general assembly adopted a resolution allowing the LFP to contract a state guaranteed loan (PGE) from its banking establishment.

“Thanks to this loan, the LFP will be able to pay Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 clubs all of the sums still to be collected for audiovisual rights for the 2019/2020 season.

“These sums cover the last two instalments of audiovisual rights for the 2019/2020 season, respectively, initially scheduled for April 5 and June 5, 2020, and will help support the cash flow of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 clubs,” the LFP said. 

The decision to end the campaign has angered some clubs, with Olympique Lyonnais,, saying they will seek millions of euros in damages as they faced being deprived of European competition for the first time in a quarter of a century.

Amiens, who were relegated from the top flight, said they would  study the reasons behind the decision before planning any legal challenge.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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