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Parisian nonchalance shattered by Macron's coronavirus address to the people

Parisiens gather to enjoy some spring sunshine at the Buttes Chaumont park at the weekend, ignoring government advice to stay indoors and respect social distancing.
Parisiens gather to enjoy some spring sunshine at the Buttes Chaumont park at the weekend, ignoring government advice to stay indoors and respect social distancing. © Vicky Coffey

Gallic bravado or youthful nonchalance? Either way, it was apparent from President Emmanuel Macron’s speech laying out the implementation of France’s lockdown that the weekend antics of some Parisians would not be tolerated and the threat of CoVid-19 must be taken seriously.

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Ahead of the French president’s address on Monday evening, a televised speech that was watched by a record 35 million viewers, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe had called on French citizens to limit their movements as much as possible.

On Saturday, Philippe ordered the closure of all non-essential enterprises, specifically including restaurants, cafés, cinemas and theatres. However come Sunday morning, it appeared to be business as usual, as thousands flouted the warnings to spend time in Parisian parks and food markets.

One of the French capital’s largest urban parks, Les Buttes Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement was positively bustling with Parisian “flâneurs” (Ed.Note: loafers) gathered on the hillsides and slopes of the 153 year old public garden, ignoring government advisories and guidelines.

Parisiens gather to enjoy some spring sunshine at the Buttes Chaumont park at the weekend, ignoring government advice to stay indoors and respect social distancing.
Parisiens gather to enjoy some spring sunshine at the Buttes Chaumont park at the weekend, ignoring government advice to stay indoors and respect social distancing. © Vicky Coffey

Speaking on Monday morning, France’s Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon underlined "The situation is deteriorating very quickly, the number of cases is doubling every three days. A lot of people did not understand that they must stay home, this low rate of respecting the guidelines is preventing us from curbing the epidemic."

The president not pleased

Following in that vein, after lauding the efforts of civil servants, mayors and electoral officials on ensuring the smooth voting process of the country’s 1st round of municipal elections on Sunday, President Macron appeared to express his exasperation at people’s failure to grasp the severity of the Coronavirus epidemic.  

“At a time when health workers and personnel who manage reanimation units have signaled the gravity of the situation, we have also witnessed people gathering in parks, crowded markets, restaurants and bars that have not respected the directives to shut down. All as if nothing has changed in our lives,” said a visibly irate Macron.

To all those who have taken on this behavior and defied these instructions, I want to say to you very clearly: Not only are you not protecting yourselves – and the latest evolution of events has shown that no one is invulnerable, including younger people – but you are not protecting others. Even if you don’t show any symptoms, you can pass on the virus. Even if you have no symptoms, you risk infecting your friends, your parents, your grandparents and put all those who are precious to you in danger,” he concluded.

The youth of today

What was noticeable in the springtime revelry at the Buttes Chaumont this Sunday, was the demographic of the people having pick-nicks and listening to music around the park – mainly 18 to 25 year olds – taking advantage of schools and universities having shut down in a bid to contain the spread of CoVid-19.

Parisiens gather to enjoy some spring sunshine at the Buttes Chaumont park at the weekend, ignoring government advice to stay indoors and respect social distancing.
Parisiens gather to enjoy some spring sunshine at the Buttes Chaumont park at the weekend, ignoring government advice to stay indoors and respect social distancing. © Vicky Coffey

However, despite the crowds that gathered at the weekend, it was a different story this Monday morning with that park closed to the public for the foreseeable future. Even ahead of the midday deadline for the imposition of France’s non-essential restriction of movement. As of 12pm today, anyone found on the streets without an “Overriding Declaration of Movement”, which must be produced if approached by any of the 100,000 policing authorities that have been deployed to enforce the measures, will be fined.

Buttes Chaumont park on lockdown in Paris' 19th Arrondissement
Buttes Chaumont park on lockdown in Paris' 19th Arrondissement © David Coffey

According to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, any violation of the restrictions will incur an initial fine of €38, which could increase to up to €135. Accroding to Castaner, the current constraints on leaving one’s home will “remain in place for a minimum of 15 days, but could be prolonged.”

As far as France and the French government is concerned, the war against CoVid-19 has only just begun.

Buttes Chaumont park on lockdown in Paris' 19th Arrondissement
Buttes Chaumont park on lockdown in Paris' 19th Arrondissement © David Coffey

 

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