‘We have no choice’: Are Parisians really ready for a new lockdown?

The French president as expected announced a new lockdown on Wednesday evening but are people in Paris ready to be confined to their apartments once again?

'We have no choice': Are Parisians really ready for a new lockdown?
During the lockdown this spring, Parisians without gardens sought refuge on their balconies. Those without balconies.. did not. Photo: AFP

President Emmanuel Macron has decided to opt for a new four-week national lockdown, albeit slightly less strict than in spring.

The thought of once again having to confine at home, which in and around Paris often means being stuck inside small apartments with no escape to bars or restaurants was not appealing to the locals waiting for Macron's announcement.

Most of the people The Local spoke to in Paris on Wednesday said that, while they worry about the consequences of a lockdown, they believed a second confinement was necessary. 

Jean-Pierre, 73, is retired and lives alone in the 11th arrondissement. “Of course it will be hard, but I don’t think we have a choice. The pandemic has become almost uncontrollable,” he said. 

Daniel, 58, who is also retired and lives alone near the Place de la République, said he is not worried about the month-long lockdown. “There are worse things that could happen. The worst is the people who die, or the people who get very ill. It’s not easy being in lockdown, but there are worse things.”

“I’m not at all ready,” said Hamouda, 43, who was sitting at a café with her sister Fatiha, 28, and her four children. They both live with their families in Champigny-sur-Marne, a suburb to the south-east of Paris, but work at an aesthetician's in the 11th arrondissement.

During the lockdown this spring, as schools closed down completely, Hamouda had to homeschool her children. “I spent my days printing their homework and helping them do it,” she said. “It will be a nightmare if the schools close.”

READ ALSO Another lockdown in France? What we can expect from Macron's speech

Some Parisians, those who are able to, are again planning to leave the city if a new lockdown is announced.

“I’m leaving Paris as soon as possible,” said Gilles 37, the director of a communications agency.

He spent the lockdown in his house in near Bordeaux with his family, and is worried above all about the consequences that a new lockdown can have on business.

“That, along with the anxiety that people are feeling, is what worries me the most,” he said. “The uncertainty is very difficult to deal with.”

Miriam, 61, a painter who lives in the 11th arrondissement, is also planning on going to her house in Brittany with her husband if a new lockdown is announced.

“We’re waiting until the last minute because I don’t like leaving Paris. We stayed here for the lockdown and it was fine for the first month but then I fell into a depression,” she said. “I had insomnia and other health problems, and a general feeling of anxiety.”

The psychological effects of a second lockdown could further weaken people's mental health, according to some health experts. This is particularly true for the younger population, whose job prospects have been shattered.

Bouthaina, 46, a nanny who was taking the twins she looks after for a walk in their pram, was mostly worried about her children’s lack of opportunities.

“I live with my four daughters who are all young students, so it’s very difficult for them because they are really struggling to find a side job or an internship. I am lucky enough to be able to support them, but it’s very hard for them,” she said.

It is still unclear whether the government will be forced to close down its schools, although leaks from government sources to French media suggest they will remain open – even high schools (lycées).

For Catharina, 16, and Justine, 17, who are in their last year of high school, going back to remote lessons further would slow down their learning. “I find lessons much harder to follow, and the lockdown was depressing. I didn’t like it at all, so it’s not good news for me” said Justine. 

“I’m worried about the impact [not going to school] will have on our marks to get into university,” said Catharina. “But I guess a lockdown is better than not doing anything.”

By Julia Webster


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‘Serious malfunctions’ at French research unit headed by Didier Raoult

A criminal investigation is set to begin into the Marseille research unit headed by controversial scientist Didier Raoult, after a report found "serious malfunctions".

'Serious malfunctions' at French research unit headed by Didier Raoult

The findings of the joint investigation into the IHU at Marseille by the Inspection générale des affaires sociales (IGAS) and the  l’Inspection générale de l’éducation, du sport et de la recherche (IGESR) prompted Health Minister François Braun and Research Minister Sylvie Retailleau to refer the unit to the city’s public prosecutor, urging it to investigate “serious malfunctions” at the institution.

Raoult was head of the unit from its foundation in 2011 until his retirement this summer.

The controversial microbiologist gained significant worldwide attention during the Covid-19 pandemic for his vociferous promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, despite a lack of evidence on its effectiveness.

READ ALSO Five minutes to understand: Whatever happened to French professor Didier Raoult?

He was succeeded as director by Pierre-Edouard Fournier.

The ministers said that a number of issues highlighted in the latest report are “likely to constitute offences or serious breaches of health or research regulations”.

Fournier, and the institute’s seven founding members – including the University of Aix-Marseille, Assistance Publique-Hospitals de Marseille, the Research Institute for Development or the army health service – will now be summoned by their supervisory bodies to “implement a proactive action plan as soon as possible” which “will condition the continuation of the activity of the IHU-MI and its funding by the State”, according to the joint communiqué of the ministers.

The IHU was already under judicial investigation for “forgery in writing”, “use of forgery in writing”, and “interventional research involving a human person not justified by his usual care without obtaining the opinion of the committee for the protection of persons and the authorisation of the Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé (ANSM),” the Marseille prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

In an earlier report, the ANSM had noted “serious breaches of the regulations for research involving humans”, during some clinical trials.

READ ALSO Maverick French Covid doctor reprimanded over ‘breaches’ in clinical trials

François Crémieux, the director of Marseille public hospitals, told local newspaper La Provence on Tuesday that the establishment “shares the observation of managerial excesses of certain hospital-university managers occupying key functions within the infectious diseases division”.

“The legitimacy of the IHU has been affected. It has lost its scientific credibility. It must now be regained. 800 highly skilled professionals work there every day,” he added.

Raoult bit back at the report in a tweet, saying: “I regret that the IGAS/IGAENR mission does not take into account the detailed legal and scientific response that I have provided”.

Separately, Raoult will be in court on Friday as his defamation case against Karine Lacombe, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Sorbonne University Faculty of Medicine, comes before judges.