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Letter from… Paris

13 August 2020

By Tanvi Jawadekar, Consultant, CLAI (Part of SEC Newgate)

It has been nearly three months since the general confinement ended in France. In the early days of post-confinement, the country had collectively breathed a sigh of relief. Not simply because of the new-found sense of liberty, but also the dwindling cases of coronavirus contaminations. There was talk of the virus “being under control.” And yet, only a couple of months later, we are apparently back at the threshold of a second wave of the epidemic.

For the past couple of weeks, the number of cases of Covid-19 have been consistently and alarmingly on the rise in France. After issuing multiple warnings of an imminent second wave and insisting repeatedly on the necessity to follow the security protocol, Prime Minister Jean Castex finally declared on the 11th of August that the situation was “going in a bad way.” And, considering the evolution of the statistics not just in France, but also in neighboring countries like Spain and the World in general, the Prime Minister’s concern seems to be very legitimate. 

The Government will thus launch a legal reinforcement of protection measures to control the rate of contaminations. The global strategy will be based on making masks obligatory in public spaces where they weren’t before and testing as effectively as possible. However, by now deploying it from ground level, the French Government has taken a turn from its usual ‘jacobin’ approach of centralization. This time, the detailing of the action plan at a local level will be left to the local public authorities. Thus, it will be the Prefects who will identify the public spaces in their communities where wearing a mask will be compulsory. Big cities like Paris or Marseille will have a tailor-made strategy that will take into account their local specifications. Testing capacity will continue to be increased, especially in tourist areas. Nationwide, events involving more than 5000 people will remain prohibited until the 30th of October at the least. 

All of these measures are to avoid going back into confinement. Emmanuel Macron, his new Prime Minister and various members of the cabinet have consistently maintained that a second confinement is not on the cards for France given the toll it would take on the social and economic life. For the moment, the Government is still holding on to this narrative. It has made an appeal to the solidarity of the French, especially the French youth, who have probably been enjoying the summer weather a little too much, to work with it and make the new set of rules effective. 

In Paris, after having re-discovered the simple pleasure of living normally again, it is safe to say that Parisians do not want to go back to confinement. If avoiding that means wearing a mask a little more often than we are already or waiting a little longer to watch our favorite artists, players and actors live, then we are willing to make the sacrifice!