Iron curtains drawn, brasserie chairs stacked, cyclists and pedestrians pressing the pace towards their homes … In a simultaneous ballet, the Parisians returned on Saturday at 9 p.m. for their first evening of curfew.
After a last burst of activity, the streets gradually froze in silence. Empty, as during the containment of almost two months ordered by the French authorities in the spring to fight against the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Empty, because the second wave of the epidemic now infects more than 32,000 people per day in the country, according to official figures.
Paris had not known a curfew since 1961, when it was declared – in a completely different context – for French Muslims in Algeria.
It’s 10 p.m., but it could be 5 a.m. In the Latin Quarter, a favorite haunts for students and tourists in the capital before the coronavirus, the streets were deserted in less than an hour.
“It’s talking. It is 9:00 p.m. and there is no one left. The situation is almost clean, ”says Police Commissioner Patrick Caron, who ensures compliance with the new rules.
To curb the spread of the virus, the inhabitants of a dozen large French cities, including Paris and its suburbs – 20 million people in total – have been subject since Saturday to a curfew from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. for at least four weeks. .
The authorities have deployed a reinforcement of 1,350 police and gendarmes to enforce the new device in the capital region.
“My daughter is in the hospital”
Commissioner Caron’s teams are starting their patrol around the restaurants and cafes around the Luxembourg Gardens, near the Sorbonne University.
“This is no longer the time for pedagogy, but for punishment. In the event of an infringement, it is a 4th class fine (135 euros) and the risk of an administrative closure “, warns the commissioner.
Tonight, his team remained empty-handed. Soon, the conversations between his men revolved around this vision of a Paris almost at a standstill. Not a single store opened, except for the few establishments authorized to carry out take-out.
The streets of Paris are becoming the kingdom of food delivery men, who circulate by bike or scooter, their neon refrigerated bags on their backs. Some buses, also authorized to circulate, overtake them at full speed, empty, for the most part.
The rare pedestrians, less than a dozen encountered at this intersection in half an hour, all have good reason to be still outside.
A worried-looking man walks towards the police cordon, a paper in his hand. “I have just come back from the Curie Hospital where my daughter is having an operation and the hospital gave me proof,” said the passer-by, unfolding his sesame.
“It’s square, good evening sir,” replied Commissioner Caron, browsing the document. “It’s like during confinement, we exercise good judgment,” he said, especially for homeless people.
But he also says he expects a few wacky excuses or a little too cobbled together attestations.
In addition to Paris and its region, night confinement also hits the metropolises of Lyon, Lille, Toulouse, Montpellier, Saint-Étienne, Aix-Marseille, Rouen and Grenoble.