Letter from… Paris

By Antoine Barthelemy

Since the last letter, things have changed a bit in France. Indeed, the good weather is back, allowing the French to go out for a picnic in the parks and gardens. In Paris, if you walk around the Luxembourg Gardens, you will see many people enjoying the sun, for lunch or more, in groups or alone.

With the rising temperatures and the arrival of the sun, you can see many people putting on their sport shoes and going for a run or a bike ride. There is also the smell of spring in the air, the sun rises earlier and earlier and sets later and later. Winter is behind us, and spring is beginning to take its place.

Despite this good spring news, the curfew has still not been removed because the numbers are not going down. Questioned by a student, Emmanuel Macron even explained that we would have to wait another 4 to 6 weeks before we could hope to ease restrictions. This was confirmed by the Minister of Health, Olivier Veran, on the evening of Monday March 1st. However, a small ray of hope came from the Minister Delegate for Sports, who admitted she hoped to see more people in the stadiums before the end of March.

The Government is thinking of reopening restaurants, bars, cinemas and theatres before the end of April. The different ministers discussed with President Emmanuel Macron the options for allowing the French to return a little to their habits of before the crisis. All this will only be possible if the pace of vaccinations is maintained, said government spokesman Gabriel Attal.

New measures have been announced since our last letter. Some cities, including Nice on the Mediterranean coast, must now lockdown at the weekend, in addition to the curfew during the week. Something quite surprising, that one would never have thought possible a year ago now, the iconic Promenade des Anglais is now deserted. The people of Nice have deserted this emblematic place of the city.

Twenty other departments are also threatened by new restrictions and this possibility has aroused strong tensions between different political players. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, does not want a lockdown on weekends, while Valérie Pécresse, President of the Region, is not opposed to the idea. One must acknowledge that the last couple of weekends, the banks of the Seine river in Paris were literally crowded with people enjoying the mild temperature. This scene would not have shocked one year ago, but today many things have changed. The mask becomes an essential element when you go out in the street for example.

On Thursday, March 4, following the weekly government council meeting, Prime minister Jean Castex announced even stricter measures in the departments which are most under Covid pressure: a weekend lockdown was introduced in the Pas-de-Calais department, as of Saturday, March 6, on the model of lockdown already implemented in Nice and Dunquerke.

With these new announcements, the French are more and more weary of the ongoing situation and are beginning to that their efforts are not making a difference.  The inhabitants of the locked cities feel a form of injustice, because they are subjected to harsher rules while other regions with alarming figures are not affected by these measures.

One can feel the French are tired of all these measures and political disagreements, because they do not see the end of the road.  They only hope for one thing: to be able to get back to their routine from before the health crisis.