Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent


French government imposes curfew on 20 million citizens to handle COVID crisis

Meanwhile, the ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 infections in France appears to be only a wavelet.
Fri Oct 16, 2020 - 2:52 pm EST
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PARIS, France, October 16, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A strict curfew will take effect as of Saturday in eight major cities in the Eastern half of France as well as the greater Paris region, affecting over 20 million people — close to one third of the French population.

By ordering people off the streets from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. for four weeks — or six, if Parliament approves the “state of sanitary emergency” law until April 1, 2021, that has already obtained the vote of the National Assembly (or lower chamber) — the government officially aims to slow down hospitalizations and occupation of ICU beds in hospitals due to COVID-19.

How such closures — when only about 10 percent of known contamination clusters appear in restaurants, bars and other evening venues — are going to change anything remains a mystery.

The announcement was made on Wednesday evening during a television interview that saw French president Emmanuel Macron explain, “We are slowly learning again how fully to be a nation; we had gradually become used to being a society of free individuals. We are a nation of citizens in solidarity.”

His words were widely interpreted, both on social media and by a small but slowly increasing number of journalists, as meaning that personal freedoms are no longer acceptable in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic — which is now sending ten times fewer people to the hospital than at the height of the pandemic in March and April, and causes only slightly more daily deaths at present than an above average flu season. The Wuhan coronavirus appears to have weakened in strength even though it is “circulating actively” throughout the country, as the authorities repeatedly warned.

The curfew, which is enforced with a €135 fine (about $150) for first-time offenders, and €1,500 to €6,000, and even up to six months imprisonment, for repeat offenders, came as a shock to the French because it is reminiscent of the time of the German occupation in 1940–1944 during the Second World War. The only other curfew Parisians can remember dates back to the “Guerre d’Algérie,” the war of independence of France’s former colony Algeria at the beginning of the 1960s.

It is in practice a death penalty for an estimated 30 percent of restaurants in the affected areas, with bankruptcies, job losses and indirect losses to suppliers and related businesses, as many of these establishments, especially the most prestigious ones, make a large proportion of their income from dinner guests after 8 p.m. Bars, theaters, cultural activities and cinemas will also be heavily hit as young people are deprived of their meeting points, while families will not be able to invite their friends given working hours up to 7 p.m. or later, and the time it takes to reach home before the fatal “21 hours” mark turns all and sundry into potential delinquents.

In any case, Emmanuel Macron told the two adoring journalists who carefully served him softball questions that the French must observe the “rule of six”: no more than six people at restaurant tables, no more than six people grouped in the street, and the “strong recommendation” not to exceed six people at dinner parties at home all over the country. Wedding receptions and students’ parties in public places have also been outlawed in the whole of France. Many cities and smaller towns, including Paris, have mandatory mask rules both indoors and outdoors, despite the avowed ineffectiveness — and even harm — of face coverings in the context of the coronavirus, especially in the way they are worn: repeatedly put on and taken off, shoved in pockets and continually reused.

On the other hand, public transport will run as usual, with crowded subways and stuffy trains.

Macron told the French that they should wash their hands, under some circumstances wear masks even in the home, and open windows for ten minutes three times a day.

He also announced that further millions of euros would be injected into the economy to help businesses hurt by the curfew decisions and restrictions on receiving the public: this help will take the form of government loans that will have to be repaid in a context of economic contraction and a depression that will be much worse than in 1929.

This fact partly answers the question about whether a curfew is really something to complain about when so many people live in warzones or in poverty and distress. But the loss of personal freedoms, the crackdown on social life and person-to-person meetings and interaction, risking a heavy fine even if you pull your mask under your nose or step outside after a given time, being told where to stand and sit and walk, being considered as an enemy of society by virtue of your very existence, is the sure sign of totalitarianism. With modern surveillance that rests on ever more efficient identification and artificial intelligence algorithms, the path is wide open towards a China-like society, where the mainstream media systematically ridicules those who question the set-up.

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“Why?” many people ask. Is the threat of a modern-day plague so great? But not all question government decisions: a remarkable proportion of the population is actually complaining that the curfew is not nationwide, and in towns where masks are not compulsory, up to two thirds of the population wear them in the streets.

The truth is hard to come by because government statistics are broadcast in an incomplete way, and gauges keep changing without notice. At the height of the pandemic, which claimed about 30,000 lives in France from March to the end of May (the lockdown in France was from March 17 to May 11), including the very old and frail with many comorbidities, only some regions were hit and faced full ICU and COVID-19 sections. However, private clinics received no COVID patients although they begged to help, and in the provinces most hospitals and clinics were empty, waiting for a “wave” that never came, and prevented from caring for any but the most urgently ill — although abortions continued to take place as an “essential” service.

At the end of August, health minister Olivier Véran announced that ICU beds would soon double as compared to those available during the “first wave” — it was their scarcity, about 6,000 to 7,000 nationwide, that was invoked in order to impose the lockdown, to “flatten the curve,” as they said.

This has not happened. Instead, massive amounts of PCR tests have been conducted, revealing thousands of new “cases” as positive results roll in due to their sensitivity that identifies people who may have been infected months ago or who have such small viral charges that they can infect no one. “Asympomatic” patients are all the rage: they are well and feel well, but are considered as dangerously contagious. Hence masks, seven day quarantines for “contact cases,” curfews and the obstacles to social life.

Since the beginning of September, “infections” have risen sharply, while deaths have risen somewhat but are nowhere near March and April figures, as this diagram shows. It is not clear whether these deaths are “COVID deaths” or deaths of severely ill people who happen to be COVID-positive. ICU beds are at present occupied to the tune of 1,600 by COVID positive patients, who are not necessarily true COVID patients, while the “red alert” threshold for occupation has been surreptitiously brought down from 40 to 30 percent.

Authorities insist that the “second wave” is here — as they have been doing for over a month, but in many zones the peak of the wavelet seems to have passed — and many scientists and health professionals are accusing the French government of outright lying and manipulation — but that’s another story.

Hospital admissions appear to be on the rise — as they are every fall and winter, with recurring media coverage about the saturation of emergency wards — but not many people are dying of COVID: they receive anticoagulants early on, as well as corticotherapy, which was banned in spring. Less than a third of ICU COVID patients are receiving invasive respiratory treatment, which has been mostly replaced by the plain administration of oxygen. Stays in ICU units have shortened dramatically, and COVID-19 is now considered to be a condition that is treatable for the most part.

So how long will restrictive measures and curbs on fundamental liberties continue, at a time when many only observe them nominally to avoid being fined? It’s anyone’s guess: clearly, the government is hoping that the population will clamor for a vaccine. There are also local political considerations for Macron who portrays himself as the savior of the nation; beyond that, the crisis is being used to impose even more anti-life laws and to adopt “greening” measures that have already included the closure of nuclear plants. The slow collapse of the French economy will also make an increasing number of citizens dependent on the State, while at the same time workers’ unions are complaining of having to work in “dangerous” conditions because the lockdown is not complete.

If there’s a war on in France — a war against the virus, Macron said in March — morale is sadly low. And that is much worse than the “invisible enemy” which is achieving less and less.

  covid-19, curfew, emmanuel macron, france, lockdowns, paris

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