You are currently browsing the daily archive for May 15, 2020.

On April 23, 2020, France’s president Emmanuel Macron announced that the nation would begin to reopen on Monday, May 11, after battling coronavirus.

COVID-19 is still around, but parts of the economy — and some schools — must restart.

Health minister Olivier Véran estimates that the R number in France is 0.6.

This is only a partial reopening of 400,000 businesses, including hairdressers. A reporter explained that they have been ‘working for weeks’ on rearranging their shops for correct social distancing and hygiene. A few hairdressers opened at midnight:

In Paris, road traffic was down and the streets were still largely empty early Monday morning:

In Nice, employees at a delicatessen applauded the reopening of their establishment at 11 a.m. that day:

Cafés, restaurants and many shops remain closed.

Interestingly, 70% of the French who have been working at home wish to continue doing so, even after total lifting of coronavirus restrictions.

As is true in other European countries, social distancing and other rules are still in place.

Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner said he hoped that the French would be able to meet the challenge with intelligence and common sense. President Macron called on people to exercise personal responsibility towards others.

Below are a selection of tweets from news channel BFMTV.

On Thursday, May 7, BFMTV’s top editorialist, Christophe Barbier, who always wears his red scarf, gave his thoughts on the matter. He is known for being anti-gilet jaune (yellow jacket) and against the everyday Frenchman. He said it was vital that the construction and manufacturing ramp up activity, but wondered if the average Frenchman would meet the challenge or be fearful. It is no wonder then that someone replied with, ‘This guy frightens me more than lockdown! He really is a crazed madman!’ Other comments noted his relentless condescension towards the average man and woman:

Early Monday morning, Christophe Barbier pointed out that the French parliament did not renew the state of emergency, which the nation’s constitutional council said they would address later that day. Someone in the replies complained about France’s open borders — ‘real sieves’ — during the coronavirus crisis:

Not every political leader was impressed with President Macron’s déconfinement (release from lockdown). Jean-Luc Mélenchon of La France Insoumise (Unbowed France) was one of them. A Twitter user said it was time for him to start yet another protest movement.

Sunday should have been a ‘school night’, with those going back to work in bed early. Unfortunately, parts of France were under an amber warning for rain. Two départements in the south west had red alerts, with the worst rain they had seen in decades. So, a number of people spent the night bailing water out of their homes:

Also on Sunday, eight new cases of coronavirus were diagnosed just outside of Paris, in Clamart. The men, said to be living in ‘young workers’ accommodation’ (code for immigrant worker housing?) told health professionals they’d had no symptoms.

Meanwhile, that evening, in the heart of the French capital, a video display at the Eiffel tower thanked first responders who worked throughout the darkest days of the coronavirus crisis:

In Paris, public transport was of primary concern for those returning to work. On Sunday, the transport minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, went through the various preparations made for travel, among them, mandatory masks for all passengers and transport workers:

Masks were handed out at station entrances early in the week. On Wednesday, May 13, fines may be imposed in greater Paris for anyone travelling without one:

In some parts of the country, such as Hauts-de-France, coupons are necessary for travel on certain rail lines, particularly the TER. The coupons — a type of reservation, in addition to a ticket for travel — are for specific scheduled trains. No coupon, no travel. This is to ensure that there is adequate space for all travellers:

On buses and trains in Île de France — greater Paris — roundels (macarons) were placed on the floors of stations and on seats to help maintain social distancing. Unfortunately, one Métro train driver said that some passengers were ripping off the roundels from the seats. He said that one cannot impose too many rules on Parisians:

On Monday, one bus driver told RMC (BFMTV’s sister talk radio station) that people were sitting on seats with roundels on them. He said there was nothing he could do about it.

Nonetheless, the transport secretary said mid-morning on Monday, that safe travel was going according to plan. True, at that point, 95% of those taking Paris transport were wearing masks. Yet, at 6:30 a.m. that day, some Paris Métro lines were quite full, with no social distancing:

The company in charge of keeping transport vehicles clean said that ‘continuous’ disinfection would be ongoing.

Across the country in Lyon, a rather ingenious hand sanitising machine is being used on that city’s Métro:

As far as air travel is concerned, the transport secretary announced that there would be no social distancing on planes, so that ticket prices would not increase dramatically.

With regard to schools, staff across the country have been rearranging the classroom for staggered schedules and limited numbers of students:

Parents are not obliged to send their children back to classrooms at this time. A number of parents are concerned that children might bring the virus back, even though schools have put disinfecting and social distancing procedures in place, including in canteens. Teachers are also worried. Children might not get COVID-19 very often, but they can still carry it and bring it home. Children will have to think of creative ways of playing, as social distancing is also required on playgrounds.

Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, who has called on secondary school students to begin revising for the Baccalaureat exam in French language, showed the correct procedures for students returning to school. They begin with everyone washing his/her hands:

France is under a coronavirus traffic light system now, with départements labelled as green (relatively safe), amber (less safe) and red (restrictions apply). One mustn’t travel from a red zone to a green or an amber zone, for example. By and large, however, even those living in red zones still have the ability to shop, travel 100 km within their zone and get one’s hair cut:

One of the regions hardest hit is the northeastern part of France, the Grand-Est, where the regional president, Jean Rottner (LR [Conservative]) says that masks must become the norm when leaving the house. However, further south, in Nice, a case might be taken to the European Court of Human Rights protesting the mandatory wearing of masks outdoors in the city. Neighbouring Cannes and other cities along the Cote d’Azur also have obligatory mask policies.

In hospitals, health and hygiene policies are also evolving. One hospital in the north east of France has a fever detector. Hmm:

In closing, readers might be wondering if the French can meet up at someone’s home for drinks and nibbles, the increasingly popular apéro. Unfortunately, gatherings of a maximum of ten must be held outdoors, with social distancing in place. That’s going to require a fairly large garden, so it’s out of the question for most. Guests must wash their hands upon entering their hosts’ house. Everyone must receive an individual plate of nibbles — no communal bowls or plates. It sounds like an absolute pain to arrange and manage, as this report explains.

France is far from being COVID-19 free. If this partial reopening doesn’t work, it’s back to lockdown. I wish them all the very best.

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