Posted October 17, 2020 9:30 am by

Last night out in France for millions as virus curfew imposed

Paris, France, Oct 17 – Millions of French people enjoyed a last night of freedom on Friday before a Covid-19 curfew in Paris and other large cities came into force at midnight, for a least a month, prompted by an alarming surge in new cases.

The curfew aims to keep some 20 million people home from 9 pm to 6 am from Saturday — 30 percent of the French population.

It 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, after Thursday’s record of over 30,000. 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.

– ‘Never seen anything like it’ –

New infections have been rising most rapidly among older citizens, with confirmed cases up by around two-thirds over the past six weeks, Sophie Vaux, an epidemiologist at the Sante Publique health agency, told reporters.

The situation in retirement homes has again become “very worrying”, the agency said.

The ARS health authority for the southeastern Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region, which includes Grenoble, Lyon and Saint-Etienne, on Friday asked hospitals to cancel all non-urgent surgery to safeguard intensive care capacity for future Covid cases.

Coronavirus in France © AFP / Simon MALFATTO

While the curfew has broad public support — a Harris Interactive poll after Macron’s announcement found 70 percent approval — 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.

– ‘Loss of daily pleasures’ –

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”.

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