‘We’re getting back to normal’: Crowds return to Disneyland Paris as France goes mask-free

As people in France enjoy being outside without face masks for the first time since last autumn, crowds returned to Disneyland Paris, which reopened its doors after an eight-month hiatus.

Masked crowds in Paris will be a thing of the past, as coronavirus restrictions continue to loosen
Ludovic MARIN / AFP

The easing of coronavirus rules on Thursday came as authorities hailed a rapid decline in new cases on the eve of summer holidays, raising hopes for a more vibrant and relaxed tourist season.

“I’m happy, it frees us a little bit,” said Aicha Drame, a student in the capital, where roughly half of pedestrians on many busy streets enjoyed the new-found freedom. “We’re getting back to normal and it feels good,” she told AFP.

The nationwide curfew of 11 pm will be lifted ahead of schedule on Sunday, the government announced Wednesday, reinforcing a sense that France’s vaccination drive is starting to pay off.

READ MORE: Where do you still need to wear a face mask in France?

Health Minister Olivier Veran said 60 percent of adults have now received at least one Covid jab, and youths 12 and over are now eligible as well.

But he urged people to continue wearing masks outdoors, in particular in crowded areas. “It doesn’t mean you can’t wear it, if you want to protect yourself,” he told BFM television.

Miriam Rofael, an American lawyer visiting from California, continued to wear a mauve mask that matched her top as she crossed a bridge over the Seine.

“I trust the science and I trust that I’m protected,” she said, but acknowledged that “It is easier if it’s hot, not to have to wear it.”

Camille Wodling, a photographer, was not only savouring the sun at a table outside a cafe.

“Seeing strangers without a mask, you want to stop and take a good look at their face. And then you see smiles, it’s good to see people smile,” she said.


Mickey and Minnie Mouse led the re-opening party for hundreds of families at Disneyland Paris, Europe’s biggest tourist attraction, which has been shut since October 30.   

For the past weeks one of the park’s conference centres has served as a mass Covid vaccination site.

As costumed park employees danced and sang, others walked through the crowds carrying reminders to keep at least one metre (three feet) from others.

Masks remain required wearing as well, even on the vast boulevards stretching between rides, and attendance has been capped for now.

READ MORE: What’s changed for France’s Fête de la Musique this year?

“I’ve really been looking forward to the opening of Disney, the joy, seeing people smile again – there are still masks but it’s really, really great to be here,” said Cynthia Castanier, who made the journey from the eastern suburbs of Paris.

For Lea Leroux, who lives in Paris, it was the perfect day to rediscover “the magic of Disney, this world all its own.”

“It’s incredibly important for everyone – we need to get back to life almost as normal, with some changes maybe but we need to be here,” she said.

Member comments

  1. What a surprise. It’s holiday season with July and August around the corner. The same thing happened last year and look what happened later in the year.

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New Covid wave in autumn ‘virtually certain’ say French experts

The head of the government's new health advisory body says that a surge of Covid cases when the French head back to work after the summer break is virtually certain.

New Covid wave in autumn 'virtually certain' say French experts

Immunologist Brigitte Autran, president of new government health advisory body the Comité de veille et d’anticipation des risques sanitaires (Committee to monitor and anticipate health risks) which has replaced the Conseil scientifique, told Le Parisien that “the Covid epidemic is not behind us” and said that the French would have to get used to “living with” the virus.

The Covidtracker website currently shows that the virus is in decline across France, with the R-rate currently at 0.7 – any figure lower than one indicates that the number of infections is falling.

Autran, whose appointment as head of the new body was confirmed on Wednesday, said that the most likely scenario was for a “new epidemic peak in the autumn”, when people return to work after the summer holidays.

“Will it be due to a new variant or the return of cold weather?” she said. “We are not soothsayers, but it is almost certain that there will be a wave.”

“Today, we must go towards living with it,” she added, reintroducing the French to an expression previously used by President Emmanuel Macron and several ministers.

“This does not mean accepting the deaths or the severity of the disease,” she went on, pointing to the fact that health authorities in France still have “levers to activate” to fight the virus. 

Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent (79.6 percent) of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated against the virus, she said that, “unfortunately there are still too many people who have not been vaccinated or revaccinated.”

And she said the new body would work with the government to improve the public’s access to drugs, such as Paxlovid, and vaccines.

Vaccination is still open to anyone who has not yet had their shots, while a second booster shot is on offer to certain groups including over 60s, pregnant women, those with health conditions or people who are in close contact with vulnerable people.

EXPLAINED Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster shot in France?

The French government in August voted to end to State of Emergency that allowed it to impose measures like travel bans and lockdowns, although further restrictions could be put in place if cases rise again and parliament agrees.