Last night, French president Macron spoke about new coronavirus restrictions. He confirmed that France was in the second wave of the virus, as predicted around this time. In the Spring, the virus was only circulating widely in Paris and a couple of other regions. Now, the virus is spreading throughout the entirety of France.
So, what does the second wave of the virus look like in France?
New cases hit 20,000 positive tests a day, much higher than when the country was in complete lockdown this Spring. However, hospitalizations and the number of intensive care patients remain at levels much lower than in the initial lockdown. The president has repeatedly said that they do not want to put the country in another lockdown. So, that’s good news.
Restrictions have been slowly starting to increase in France over the past few weeks as we move into the second wave. First, it began with the creation of new zone classifications. Lyon was initially classified as “super red.” Over the past two weeks, Lyon reached the “scarlet” zone, along with Paris and Marseille, and bars were forced to close.
Starting this weekend, there will be a mandatory curfew for Lyon, Paris, and six other large cities in France. The curfew, or couvre-feu, is from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am every day and will last for four to six weeks. My curfew was later than this when I was in high school! A travel certificate will be required if we are outside of our apartment after 9:00 pm. If we are caught outside during the curfew, steep fines will be imposed. The first offense fine is 135 EUR, and a second offense fine is 1500 EUR! We plan to avoid this situation altogether.
The curfew does not impact us on our usual day-to-day. Gyms, sports halls, and bars will remain closed. All weddings and similar events will be canceled. Restaurants are limited to six people per table, but we don’t have that many friends! It will impact when we go to dinner since we typically go out to eat around 8:00 pm. It will also affect having friends over for dinner (and vice versa). My friend said, “that’s why we have guest rooms!” so I guess we already found a loophole.
Traveling and vacations have not been restricted at this time. We are still planning on taking trips each weekend, just not to the zones with curfews. Macron did acknowledge how difficult it is to be confined to a small apartment and discussed the benefits of getting outside. Until the government says otherwise, we are going to continue to travel. Don’t worry: we are making smart decisions. Our recent travel activities involve lots of hikes and minimal interaction with crowds of people.
We were planning on going to Disneyland Paris this month for their Halloween decorations. We thought this would be a fun way to get in the holiday spirit. France does not celebrate Halloween like in the US, so this would be our only chance! However, we’ve canceled our plans due to the new curfew and restrictions.
More acquaintances in Lyon are becoming exposed to the virus. A few of Jordan’s coworkers have already tested positive for the virus. Two more coworkers got tested today, including one that Jordan frequently carpools with. Thankfully, Jordan has not been in direct contact with either of them for at least a week. Jordan already works from home 50% of the time each week and will continue to do so.
French citizens in Lyon are starting to resist the restrictions. Jordan and I went to a local boulangerie for lunch this week to grab sandwiches. It is still required to wear masks throughout Lyon. Ours were on, as usual. The volume of people NOT wearing masks was so surprising. The first ten people we saw after leaving our apartment were not wearing masks! We asked our friends if they knew anything about a revolt against masks that had started, but they hadn’t heard anything. People appear to be tired of the rules.
For two days this week, different sectors had snail parades during morning rush hour. On Monday, it was carnival workers, and on Tuesday, it was nightclub owners. Both sectors closed when the first lockdown began in France on March 15. They have not reopened yet after seven months. Workers in these sectors took their frustration and convened together for opération escargot. They drove slowly around the city of Lyon. These snail parades put the majority of the city into gridlock. Jordan luckily left for work before these started.
But, France is not alone with the increase in virus cases. Europe is starting to see cases rises throughout the continent. The second wave of the virus seems to be hitting France and the rest of Europe at the same time. Countries throughout Europe are beginning to impose new restrictions. Germany was previously using the threshold of 50 infections per 100,000 as a baseline for when to impose new restrictions. They’ve reduced the threshold to 35 infections per 100,000 before they take action. And Lyon? Lyon is currently at 400 infections per 100,000. So, it’s not great right now.
The city of Lyon is starting to cancel future events. Other cities in France are following suit. Yesterday, Lyon announced the cancelation of the annual Christmas market. But not all cities are canceling their Christmas markets. Munich just confirmed their Christmas market event would happen, and I read an article about how the UK is starting a campaign to save Christmas. Macron mentioned in his speech that it is important to continue to have hope, and not canceling Christmas is one thing we can all hope for!
However, we are starting to realize that traveling back to the United States may not be possible for the Christmas holidays. Jordan’s expat contract allows one flight back to the US per year. The virus is definitely trending in the wrong direction in Europe for this return trip to happen. Even if we self-quarantined for two weeks before traveling, there is still so much exposure that could occur on a multi-flight trip. Jordan and I have had multiple conversations about how we can’t put our families at risk. We will wait until December to decide but are mentally preparing now for the worst-case option.
In ten years, it will be interesting to look back and reflect on this time. What will we know then that we didn’t know now? Will the cure have been something super simple, like eating a pineapple? What country will have managed the best? Will it be Sweden, who has taken a laissez-faire approach the entire time? Or France, who has ping-ponged back and forth? Or even the US, who is receiving constant criticism? While none of that is certain, one thing is clear: France is officially navigating through the second wave of the virus.
Somber mood aside, I’ve got some great posts coming in the next couple of weeks! Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about our hunt for fall foliage in France. Next week, I’ll be talking about the process for us to vote while living abroad. It’s way easier than you might think!