PARIS – France began a second lockdown on Friday with an air of resignation from a population accustomed to coronavirus restrictions, which are less strict than those enforced during the first confinement order back in spring.
Parisians awoke to almost empty streets on Friday morning as residents here, like the rest of the country, are ordered only to leave the house if they have permission.
It was a starkly different picture to Thursday night when the city’s main exits bore witness to a total of 730 kilometers of traffic jams – more than seven times the rush hour average – as those with second residences outside the city made a mad dash for the exit. The partial lockdown in France is due to last at least one month.
Just a few hours before the clocks struck midnight on Friday, when the lockdown came into effect, there was an almost festive mood in Paris’ bar terraces and many were still out drinking beyond 9:00 pm, when the nightly curfew comes into effect.
The new restrictions in the capital and other major French cities brought to life the oft-said slogan used to describe the daily grind – “metro, boulot, do-do” (“metro, work, sleep”) – as people found themselves running to make it home in time for the curfew.
One pharmacist in Paris city center told EFE that things were “much more relaxed” this time around.
“In March, our clientele tripled all of a sudden. People were scared, they didn’t know what to do or how to avoid becoming infected,” the pharmacist told EFE.
Florists, considered a non-essential sector, were permitted to stay open until Sunday, the day before All Saints Day. But then they will have to close for the month.
“I don’t know how we are going to be able to sell flowers if the people cannot even leave their house,” Bety, a florist, told EFE.
On Friday, the tailbacks of traffic outside the French capital were just 24 kilometers in total, an abnormally low figure. In the streets, a few people were buying groceries, while others commuted to work, usually by bike or car.
The decrease in activity is welcomed by some, such as Nicolas Lerouvillois, an engineer, whose workplace will remain open during the partial lockdown.
“You see a lot fewer cars nowadays,” he told EFE.
Although the population has been told to stay at home, school children return to class on Monday as usual after an October break.
France is only the second country in Europe to re-apply a lockdown – after the Republic of Ireland – but this time it is striving to limit economic damage as much as possible.
It predicts a 15 percent loss in activity this time round, compared to double that back in spring, when the shutdown caused French GDP to drop 11 percent in 2020.