“We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus,” Macron said during a live sent interview on Wednesday evening, where he announced an imminent curfew in nine of the hardest-hit areas of the country.
It was the first time since lockdown in March that the president announced sweeping new measures to restrict social gatherings in France.
But after weeks of spiralling Covid-19 rates that are now threatening to overwhelm hospitals in several cities including Paris, the president said it was time to stop playing around.
“We won't be leaving the restaurant after 9pm,” he said. “We won't be partying with friends because we know that that's where the infection risk is greatest.”
From Saturday, a curfew from 9pm to 6am will be in place in nine areas – the greater Paris Île-de-France region and the metropole areas of Lille, Lyon, Aix-Marseille, Grenoble, Montpellier, Saint-Etienne, Rouen and Toulouse.
Although expected, the announcement of the curfew provoked swift backlash from critics and on Thursday morning #GeorgeOrwell – the author of the world-famous fictional account of a society watched by an omnipresent Big Brother – was trending on Twitter.
Many immediately began joking that the curfew would force them to adopt British or American habits.
— jon henley (@jonhenley) October 14, 2020
“So we've stopped kissing and now we're going to eat at 6pm,” one person wrote on Twitter.
“It's not a Chinese virus, it's an English virus,” he said.
J'adore tous les français qui râlent parce qu'ils vont devoir manger plus tôt le soir ? (for the record, at home in the UK we always eat at 8pm earliest, usually more like 9pm) #couvrefeu https://t.co/HiXkMRPP2n
— Catherine Bennett (@cfbennett2) October 15, 2020
The Local headed out to ask some Parisians for their reaction to the new rules, which come as infection rates soar and the boss of the city's hospitals has issued a stark warning.
Leo, a 23-year-old school high school supervisor, said:
“I think the curfew is a stupid idea. People still take public transport to go to work, and young people go to classes.
“I wanted to organise a party next week, so I'm quite disappointed. Apart from that, the curfew will not change my everyday life but I do not approve of it.”
But an overwhelming majority of those who spoke to us were supportive of the new rules.
Emmanuel, 40, said: “We cannot go out to the cinema or the theatre anymore, but it is necessary to contain the Covid wave. When people gather in a private sphere, interactions are much closer than at work and people are less careful.
“Our lifestyle here is very different, we have dinner quite late and I do not think it will change. It is a temporary bad time, especially for people who have trouble with staying home. Some will maybe go to the restaurant a bit earlier!’’
Jean-Louis, 51, said: “I don’t know if a curfew is justified, we will see how it turns out. It has been done in other countries, so why not here as well?
“In any case, measures have to be taken, so I think a curfew is a good idea. It will not change my habits so much, despite dinners or evenings with friends. We do not know how long the curfew will last, but of course it is temporary.”
Have your say: Do you think the 9pm curfew in Paris region and eight other cities around France is a good idea to fight second wave of Covid-19?
— The Local France (@TheLocalFrance) October 15, 2020
Blaise, a 21-year-old student, said: “’I go home from classes way before 9pm, so my life won’t be changed so much. Considering what is happening in Paris, the curfew is justified.
“I know many people in business or medical studies who keep on having parties. Parties are a cool thing to do when you’re a student, but a curfew for one or two months is really important.
“Of course the virus will keep on spreading during the day as well as after 9pm. But the curfew’s aim is mainly to avoid huge student events with 100 or 200 people for example.”
Elio, 18 and also a student, said: “It's a very good idea and a completely justified one, especially because young people are the ones who go out the most in the evening.
“There is no need be dramatic about the curfew, which is completely doable. It will prevent people from going out during week-ends, but it’s nothing compared to the lockdown.
“If people do not respect the curfew, we shouldn’t be surprised if there is another lockdown.”
A poll conducted by the Harris Institute for French media LCI found that 73 percent of French people were in favour of the introduction of the curfew.
And in a rare favourable review for the president – 60 percent of people found Emmanuel Macron convincing in his TV address to the nation on Wednesday night.