‘Life will go on’: French resilience in the face of the coronavirus

‘Life will go on’: French resilience in the face of the coronavirus
A customer walks past empty racks in a store near the French city Lyon. Photo: AFP
On Friday, France woke up to a new dawn in the fight against the coronavirus with the government pledging to close all schools and banning all gatherings of more than 100 people. Sophie Gorman went out to find out how Parisians were coping with the new rules.

It was business as usual for some, but business as crazy for others in Paris on Friday. At Chez Pradel, a traditional French bistro on Rue Ordener in Paris's 18th arrondissement, the patron noted no change in clientele numbers.

“People still want to eat lunch,” he said laconically.

He did admit he was concerned about the effect of the virus not just on his business, but also those of his customers. “It is hard to know what to expect, we can only live in today. People are here, business is normal and that is all I can tell you about today.”

Across the street in the hipster cool Boulom bakery, pastries were still being eaten and coffees drunk without any sense of an impeding apocalypse.

“I think this will hit us all next week, but for today I think most people are just going on with life,” said a young lady emerging from lunch. “What’s the point in getting very worried, that won’t change anything.”

You can find the latest information on the coronavirus situation in France here.

But not everyone is quite so prosaic, if scenes in the nearby Monoprix are anything to go by.

Aisles are blocked by crate upon crate of groceries being packed up for home delivery.

“Deliveries did increase exponentially over the last three weeks, due to the virus. But they exploded this morning,” one staff member reported. “We can’t keep up with all the on-line orders. It seems a lot of people just feel safer shopping from home.”

One female shopper has decided to make lasagne, “because there is absolutely no other pasta left,” she laughed. “Why would I not be here shopping in the supermarket? We are not all contagious. But the thing I don’t understand is why people are buying so much. It seems a little selfish to me, there should be enough for everyone.”

The key products for panic-buying in France include all the old favourites of pasta, rice, tinned vegetables and toilet paper. The milk stocks are also running low, as is the cat food. And you can forget about antibacterial gels, in this supermarket there isn’t even any normal hand soap left.

Another customer has a trolley filled with toilet paper, almost emptying the last straggling loo rolls from the shelves. “I have four children and I don't know what it's going to be like next week, I am worried.”

This is not a sentiment shared by everyone.

A tall English man, standing on his toes to reach one of the last bottles of pasta sauce to help a distinctly smaller French woman, said “I don’t think this is the time to panic. Life will go on, life is going on. We just need to try to stay calm and help each other if we can.”

Member comments

  1. Good article. I like the attitude of the woman referenced early in the article. I feel the same way. “What’s the point in getting very worried, that won’t change anything.” Exactly. Just breathe, protect yourself, and help others when you can. Be a calming influence to those around you. Beyond that, we have very little control over what happens on the larger scale so make the most of whatever time there is. Make a difference to one person at a time.

  2. I can’t imagine why people are buying toilet paper, or masses of food for that matter. Most family shops will start to deteriate after a week or two and this pandemic is going to be with us for most of the year, at least. If I shopped every day then it would make sense try and buy more so as not to have to expose myself so often, but most people, certainly families tend to do one ‘big shop’at a time … so what’s the differenc?

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