COVID-19: Meeting of Joint Monitoring Committee on Friday 15 January
The twenty-fourth meeting of the Joint COVID-19 Monitoring Committee was held on Friday 15 January at the Ministry of State.
The Prince’s Government and representatives from the National Council spent more than two hours discussing developments in the health situation in the Principality.
It was noted that the incidence rate (number of positive cases per 100,000 residents over a period of seven days) had decreased slightly and was now 334 in Monaco. For comparison, the rate is 457 in the Alpes-Maritimes region and 530 in Nice.
As regards testing, the Principality has substantially stepped up the pace on both PCR and antigen tests. This week, as requested by the National Council, several hundred school pupils and staff were tested at the Léo Ferré Centre in an effort coordinated with the Department of Education, Youth and Sport and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. The aim was to gain assurance, through a voluntary scheme, that staff and pupils were negative for COVID-19 following the holiday period when there is a lot of mixing among the population. On average, Monaco is still testing at three times the rate of Nice, which carries out more tests than any other city in France.
The members of the Joint Committee then turned their attention to the English variant. While no cases of this variant have so far been recorded in the Principality, more comprehensive sequencing will be implemented from next week.
The Prince’s Government also presented some feedback on the measures to regulate traffic that were put in place last Saturday for entry to the Principality. Around 600 vehicles were asked to turn around. Alongside this issue, the members of the National Council drew attention to the need to continue checks on compliance with capacity limits in shops, particularly large department stores. The Government reiterated that regular checks were carried out. Through ongoing close contact with department store managers, awareness is being raised of the need to put staff in place to prevent particular areas of stores from becoming crowded.
The discussions also focused on measures taken in relation to people coming from outside the European Union. The Government confirmed that the measure in place since spring required such people to be tested. This requirement also applies to travellers coming from red zones within Europe, with the exception of France.
The issue of vaccines was raised. Speaking on behalf of the population, the members of the National Council asked for the vaccination programme to be speeded up. The Government explained that the current vaccination campaign, which prioritises the over 75s as well as healthcare and emergency staff, meets expectations. Vaccine candidates are numerous and nearly 2,400 have so far been vaccinated. From next Tuesday, those aged over 65 will also be able to get vaccinated, and the Government has recently sent a letter to this effect to people in this group. At the same time, those under 65 with comorbid conditions can get vaccinated on presentation of a medical certificate.
Turning to the economy, there was a comprehensive review of the support available. Since the Economic Recovery Support Commission (CARE) was set up, nearly €5 million in support has been paid out, with the exemption from employers’ social security contributions accounting for nearly €1 million. The National Council would like to see an increase in the number of businesses and organisations receiving support, and the amount of assistance granted. The Government further confirmed the targeted support measures for traders on the Rocher, who are experiencing greater hardship. Nearly €650,000 has already been granted. The Government is continuing to work with property owners to raise awareness about reducing rents. It should be emphasised that many owners are demonstrating solidarity.
Regarding the economic recovery plan, an information campaign has been launched in the local press and on social media to improve awareness of the measures available to individuals to help support the Monegasque workforce. The CARLO app has been a huge success: users have already spent more than €4 million of the €5.5 million injected by the State.
On employment, spending on furlough (CTTR) increased between October and November (€6,380,000), while the number of jobseekers was also up slightly compared with October, totalling 961 in November. This figure is nonetheless lower than that seen in June and July, so there has been a genuine upswing in activity.
Finally, the Government confirmed that to help stop people from taking risks, on presentation of a doctor’s note mandating an absence from work and prescribing a PCR test, the waiting period for payment of benefits would be suspended. This measure has been particularly welcomed by employers’ associations and trade unions.
The next meeting of the Joint Committee will be held on 25 January.