‘The rules don’t make sense’ – How Paris is adapting to new Covid-19 restrictions

Since Paris was declared a 'maximum alert' zone for Covid-19 a series of new restrictions have been introduced, including closing bars and banning groups of more than 10 people, but what do Parisians think about the new life in their city? Anne Brivet went to find out.

'The rules don't make sense' - How Paris is adapting to new Covid-19 restrictions
Bars in Paris were ordered to close as the health situation deteriorates. Photo: AFP

From closing gyms, sports centres and bars to restrictions on public gatherings there are a lot of new rules in place. But for some these don't go far enough, while others slammed confusion over the regulations and a lack of enforcement.

Bars and Restaurants 

The situation for bars is a slightly confusing one – initially bars and restaurants were all ordered to close in maximum alert areas, but the government then announced a compromise that restaurants could stay open. Exactly what defines a restaurant, and what categories cafés fall into, has been the subject of some confusion.

For Alix, 18, closing bars is a logical decision. She said: ‘’It is completely normal. I don’t quite understand how anyone can be at odds with that, given the number of cases going up again! I do not complain, especially because I know I’m protecting my family by not going to restaurants.”

But for Maïa, a 24-year-old 3D animator, the measures are not really justified. ‘’I feel like it is only a way to give the government credibility’’, she sighs. ‘’Since when does a virus strike from 10 pm, and only in bars? What about schools for example?’’

Maïa is far from being the only one pointing out a slight absurdity in the rules.

Andras, 23, strongly agrees. ‘’It is stupid to close bars and keep restaurants open only because they serve food. If we want to stop the epidemic, we should do the maximum and close everything.’’

‘’When people eat, they remove their masks. It’s pointless,’’ adds Erwan, 78.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED How France's Covid-9 alert system works

For Herwig, 49, the measures are necessary, but he has noticed that their application remains uneven in Paris. ‘’If you look around, you can see that almost nothing is closed,” he points out.

To him, restaurants have no other choice than to open, if they don't want to see their business fold.

‘’I would do the same if I had a restaurant, but I don’t think it’s good for public health. The number of cases keeps going up, faster and faster’’, he notes.

Some bars remain open too, ignoring health measures and the risk of getting fined.

‘’The thing is, there will always be bartenders opening despite the ban, as well as people going there anyway…’’, says Andras with a smile.

Even when opening is legal, health measures are not always respected. ‘’I feel like the rules are unclear, some things were different depending on the restaurants I went to,” said Fabien, a 35-year-old Parisian taking a walk along the Canal Saint Martin with his wife.

Karine, a 49-year-old script editor, is furious about the absence of enforcement of those health measures.

“I went to a very famous Parisian restaurant last week, and there was no 1 meter space between tables’’, she said. ‘’Two women decided to leave because of that. People were not wearing masks when they were walking between tables.”

All this mess also exasperates Linda, 35. ‘’I don’t go to restaurants anymore. I don’t even want to eat out or go out!’’, she rages. ‘’And it doesn’t make sense, why should we wear a mask in the street when we’re alone, and remove it in restaurants, with other people?’’

Paris police say they are conducting checks on businesses, and 95 bars were fined and closed over the first weekend of the new rules.

A Parisian cinema. Photo: AFP

Gyms, swimming pools and cultural places

Cultural sites such as cinemas and theatres can remain open as long as strict health measures are respected.

Usually, it means wearing a mask at all times, using hand gel and keeping a 1-meter distance between people. But as well as in restaurants, Karine has noticed a few problems.

‘’In cinemas, many people remove their masks during the movie and nobody is there to check’’, she says. ‘’And the distance between people sitting in the cinema is absolutely not respected’’, she frowns.

Karine’s friend Françoise agrees even though, according to her, all cultural sites are not as lax as cinemas. ‘’Measures are respected in theatres’’, she remarks. ‘’Every other seat remains free and people keep their masks on.”

Unlike cinemas and theatres, gyms are completely closed. “It is a real shame’’, says Andras, who works out at a gym in Clichy, a Paris suburb. ‘’But if closing gyms is the right thing to do, then I’ll just do it at home’’, he concludes with a shrug.   

‘’It’s really a pain’’, says Fabien. ‘’I got a bit fat since my climbing club is closed, but there is a balance as I go less often  to restaurants’’, he jokes.  

Maïa sighs. “Isn’t sport supposed to be healthy?” she says, definitely in disagreement with government measures.

Françoise is quite sad about the closing of swimming pools, which remain open only for minors.

“I can’t take my grandchildren swimming anymore,” she says. “But for the rest, as I am 70, I self-isolate without waiting for official announcements.”

The Paris Metro is not always this quiet. Photo: AFP 

Work : the only place we can still go to?

Manon, 36, is quite bitter about the work situation. “We only get restrictions on our hobbies and activities, but there is a lot of freedom to go to work… The economy seems way more important than our health,” she says.

‘’Working with a mask all day long is becoming unbearable,” adds Maïa. “On top of that, I work eight hours a day in front of a computer screen, it’s a bit too much,” she explains.

The French government did not add new measures concerning work last Tuesday, although working from home is now strongly recommended for everyone who can, but Andras feels that things need to change quickly.

“I see every day people not respecting the barrier measures. I think it partly explains why the number of cases is going up,” he says.  

For her part, and as she works in the cinema industry, Karine has to be on set and can never work from home. She points at the measures that have not been taken especially for people who need to travel for work.

‘’I take trains all the time, many of them crowded, and the passengers are not sitting every other seat like they should, she says.

“I work from home, and it suits me so far’’, says Herwig. “We have a small child, and he can still go to school, so I just hope the schools remain open.

“But I think that sooner or later, the government will have to take stricter measures for Paris. I hope I am wrong !” he concludes with a smile.

On Wednesday evening French president Emmanuel Macron will make a live TV appearance talking about the latest health situation.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

Injuries and even deaths while skiing in France have seen a sharp rise in recent years - leading the French government to create a new ski safety campaign.

France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

The early part of the ski season in France was dominated by headlines over the lack of snow in popular mountain resorts – but, now that climatic conditions have started to improve for skiers and there is at least some snow, the winter sports season is in gearing up to hit full swing.

READ ALSO Snow latest: Have France’s ski resorts reopened?

Heading into the winter holiday season – French schools in ‘Zone A’ break up for two weeks on February 4th, followed on February 11th by schools in ‘Zone B’, while schools in Zone C finish for the vacation on February 18th – the government has launched an awareness campaign highlighting skiing good practice and how to avoid accidents.

READ ALSO What can I do if I’ve booked a French skiing holiday and there’s no snow?

The Pratiquer l’hiver campaign has advice, posters and videos highlighting safety on the slopes, in an effort to reduce the number of accidents on France’s mountains – where, every year, between 42,000 and 51,000 people have to be rescued, according to the Système National d’Observation de la Sécurité en Montagne (SNOSM)

The campaign, with information in a number of languages including English, covers:

  • on-piste and off-piste safety advice (signalling, avalanche risks, freestyle areas, snowshoes, ski touring, etc.);
  • Help and instructions for children explained in a fun and educational way (educational games, games of the 7 families to be cut out, safety quizzes, advice sheets for sledding, skiing, prevention clips, etc.);
  • physical preparation (warm up before exercise, prepare your muscles and stretch well, also how to adapt the choice of pistes and the speed to your physical condition);
  • equipment and safety (helmet, goggles, sunscreen, etc.);
  • marking and signalling on the slopes (opening and marking of green, blue, red and black slopes, off-piste).

There are 220 ski resorts in France, the world’s second largest ski area, covering more than 26,500 hectares of land, across 30 departements.

In the 2021/22 ski season, totalling 53.9 million ‘ski days’, according to SNOSM, emergency services made 49,622 interventions in France’s ski areas, and 45,985 victims were treated for injuries.

The results show an increase in the number of interventions by ski safety services – a rise of 13 percent compared to the average of the five years prior to the pandemic – and the number of injured, up 8 percent. 

A few incidents on the slopes made the headlines at the time, including the five-year-old British girl who died after an adult skier crashed into her in the Alpine resort of Flaine, and the French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who died at the age of 37 after an accident while skiing in La Rosière, Savoie.

In total, 12 people died as a result of skiing incidents in France in the 2021/22 ski season. Three died following collisions between skiers, two after hitting an obstacle, and seven as a result of a fall or solo injuries. SNOSM also reported “a significant number of non-traumatic deaths, mostly due to cardiac problems” on France’s ski slopes.

The injuries due to solo falls – which represent 95 percent of all injuries –  on the ski slopes increased 2 percent compared to winter 2018/2019. Collisions between users fell, however (4.8 percent against . 5.6 percent) as did collisions between skiers and other people, and obstacles (0.7 percent compared to 0.85 percent).

The number of fatalities caused by avalanches, however, is at a historic low over the period 2011 to 2021, in part because of a relative lack of snow – leading to a drop in the number of avalanches and fewer people going off-piste, while awareness campaigns are hitting their mark, according to SNOSM.