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Letter from Paris

By SEC Newgate team
26 January 2021

By Antoine Barthelemy

As of the 15th December, France was no longer confined. The Government deemed that the virus infection figures were positive enough to let the French move again freely, with the only constraint being that they must be at home for 8pm at the latest every evening. The aim was twofold: to allow the population to move around the country without restriction and to allow everyone to spend Christmas with their families.

The Government opted for this approach with the aim of improving people’s morale during the Christmas period, and to enable citizens to consume and shop and thus support the national economy.

However, this limited freedom did not reach the intended goals. Since the beginning of January, the number of contaminations has continued to rise, with more than 20,000 cases per day on average. Hospitals are saturated by an ever-increasing number of sick people. The new variant from the UK, twice as contagious, has also entered the French territory.

Under this pressure, the Government has taken stronger measures. It imposed a curfew beginning at 6pm in ten or so areas initially, and then extended it to the whole country on the 16th of January. On social networks there is a clear sentiment of feeling confined again.

The restrictions are very tough and it is prohibited to go out during the curfew, except for urgent reasons, to return from work or to walk the dog. For example, it is no longer possible to do sports late at night. However, further lockdown threatens France. Indeed, as the Minister for Economy, Bruno Le Maire, has reminded the French, "if the figures continue to be bad, lockdown will be our only solution".

The curfew gives the strange impression of being freer without being free. Since its introduction, Parisian life has been very quiet in the evenings - quite surprising from a city whose reputation was built partly on its legendary night life. As soon as curfew time draws near, Paris is bustling like an anthill with everyone in a hurry to get home before being caught breaking the law. Busy hustle and bustle gives way to a deafening calm.

Nothing moves, the curtains of the bars have fallen. They have been closed since the last lockdown. Nobody is outside, except maybe a few dog owners or the last people coming home from work. The feeling is strange: if you risk going out after 6pm, it feels like it's 2am.