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17.10.2020 Europe

Covid-19: Curfew now in force for 20 million people living in France

By Isabelle Martinetti with RFI
© Reuters/Pascal Rossignol
LISTEN OCT 17, 2020
© Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

The curfew came into force this Saturday at midnight for 20 million French people in Paris and other large cities, who are confined to their homes from 9pm to 6am, prompted by an alarming surge in new cases. But this measure however raises criticism particularly among restaurant owners and cultural actors.

The curfew aims to keep some 20 million people home from 9 pm to 6 am from Saturday -- 30 percent of the population of France in order to break the curve of the Covid-19 epidemic, which continues to grow.

The curfew  was ordered by President Emmanuel Macron this week as the number of new infections and deaths raised the spectre of hospital overloads like those seen in March and April.

Health authorities on Friday recorded more than 25,00 new coronavirus cases. A total of 122 people were said to have died of the virus in 24 hours.

The mood in the streets of the capital Paris ahead of the curfew taking effect was something akin to New Year 's Eve, with tables overflowing in bars and the sound of laughter in the air.

"We will enjoy it as much as possible, a restaurant, bar hopping and a little walk with friends on the Champs-Elysées", said 19-year-old Kurtys Magdelo who was out with friends.

This measure, however, raises a lot of criticism among officials, restaurant owners and cultural actors.

Officials in several cities worried about the heavy social and economic costs of a measure set to last four weeks, or possibly six if the health situation fails to improve.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is pressing the government to ease the rules for theatres, cinemas and other cultural venues so that patrons can return home later.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot backed the idea, but Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire poured cold water on any special treatment for live shows.

"If we start allowing multiple exceptions," he told French TV, "we're not going to make it".

Prime Minister Jean Castex added Friday: "The rules must apply to everyone".

Restaurant owners have complained bitterly about a measure they say makes little sense given the strict social distancing rules they have already applied.

"I've never seen anything like this in the 50 years I've been here," said Stain Roman, manager of La Mere Buonavista restaurant in Marseille, another city facing the curfew.

Marseille's mayor Michele Rubirola said residents were paying the price "through the loss of their daily pleasures, their freedom, or through economic hardship".

Certificate required
People will need a signed certificate or an electronic version downloaded to a phone for activities allowed during the curfew, such as walking their dog, or risk a fine of 135 euros just like during the two-month lockdown earlier this year.

Repeat offenders could face fines of up to 3,750 euros.

No travel restrictions
The curfew measure, just ahead of the start of a two-week school holiday, contains no travel restrictions, raising the prospect that huge numbers of families will flee cities for the country.

That prompted officials in Le Touquet, a popular resort town on the English Channel, to impose its own curfew, with bars and restaurants ordered to close at 11:30 pm.

Nationwide, wedding celebrations and other parties in public venues as well as student parties have been outlawed, and people are being urged to limit gatherings in private homes to six people.

(with AFP)

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