During the Second World War, and more particularly during the Blitz, a curfew was imposed on the United Kingdom in order to guarantee total darkness to make it difficult for enemy bombers. Like one man, the country had accepted the draconian restrictions in force between 1939 and 1944. De Gaulle, who lived through these ordeals, underlines in his Memoirs about this spectacular civic spirit: “It was a truly admirable spectacle that to see every Englishman behaving as if the country’s salvation depended on his own conduct. Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, of whom Winston Churchill is the hero, likes to invoke the example of the Battle of Britain in the fight against the coronavirus. On the other hand, nowadays, its citizens hardly seem sensitive to the vulgate of the Old Lion who had nothing else to offer to the nation than “blood, work, tears and sweat”.
This is the reason why the curfew announced by the President of the French Republic is far from achieving unanimity across the Channel. “In mainland France, the measures will bring back sinister memories of the occupation as well as the ban imposed on Algerian Muslims to go out in Paris at night during the Algerian war”, writes the Times. The tabloid headline Daily Express proclaiming “Take back control!” Macron is faced with a backlash, ”criticizes the bans targeting eight metropolises in France. As for the daily center-left, The Guardian, which puts the head of state’s speech on the front page, it highlights Emmanuel Macron’s prediction that France will have to live with the virus until, at least, the summer of 2021.
Choice of a more measured regional strategy
The measures put in place on October 12 across the Channel provide for three levels of alert in England. The “medium” category (first level) imposes a curfew on pubs from 10 p.m. and the rule of the maximum gathering of six people outdoors and indoors. London and the counties in the south and east of the country were concerned. The “high” level (the second) prohibits meetings between different households, reduces travel and encourages teleworking; it applies to the northern counties and the Midlands. Finally, the “maximum” alert (third level) targeted Liverpool and the North West with the closure of pubs, cafes, leisure centers but not restaurants.
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Faced with the outbreak of a second pandemic, the Minister of Health, Matt Hancock, announced Wednesday, October 14 the passage of London, Essex and York to category “2”. Manchester could be placed at stage “3” very soon.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which are responsible for their own health measures, have instituted an even stronger system. The regional government of Cardiff intends to prevent the arrival of tourists from the most affected areas in England, starting with the neighboring cities of Liverpool, Chester or Gloucester. In Ulster, schools were closed for four weeks. In Scotland, bars and restaurants are allowed until 6 p.m. from 9 October until 25 October. With 43,155 deaths, the United Kingdom is in fifth place worldwide in the ranking of deaths from the pandemic. The country ranks third in terms of new cases.
Scientific Council and Labor in favor of reconfinement
The battle rages between supporters and opponents of the new health regulations. Relying on the advice of the scientific council, Labor leader Keir Starmer spoke out in favor of a two to three week re-containment in England. The government is deeply divided. The Minister of Finance, Rishi Sunak, who fears the economic consequences of a new turn of the screw, can count on the support of a large part of the conservative parliamentary group, in particular of the north of England. In the other camp are two heavyweights of the team in power, the Minister of Health, Matt Hancock, and that of administrative reforms, Michael Gove, in favor of stricter measures.
Obliged to reconcile the divergent points of life within his government, Boris Johnson has chosen until further notice the median solution of reinforced local restrictions. To cheer up the gloomy morale of her subjects, the queen made her first public appearance outside royal residences in seven months. The sovereign met scientists at the national defense laboratory in Salisbury (west of England). If His Majesty did not wear a mask during his visit, she always maintained the official distance of one meter from his interlocutors.