Image by Ilnur Kalimullin

HOW FRANCE IS REACTING TO COVID-19

Chloé Manguian

France first established its general lockdown on the 17th of March, after closing all national schools one day earlier. I, having escaped Milan as soon as Bocconi closed, was not surprised. France’s neighbor, Italy, having been closed for almost 10 days, you could think that the decision didn’t come as a surprise for many French. But it did. And that’s because the day before announcing the lockdown, municipal votes were taking place in every city of France, and the government was encouraging its population to go to the polls. 


According to many scientists, France is following Italy’s path. Many saw the virus coming and tried to inform the government. The question is, why didn’t the government try to prevent this situation and apply an early moderate lockdown to contain the spread of the virus? To many journalists the municipal elections answer the question. 


After president Macron declared France to be “at war” with the virus, many Parisians, who have second homes in the countryside, left the city for more pleasant environments. But, as in any other big city, a lot of them were left behind in their small apartments in one of Europe’s densest cities.  


The lockdown on a personal level brought the same changes to our everyday life as to other citizens in many affected countries: everything but the essential businesses (supermarkets and pharmacies) are closed. When leaving the house, everyone must carry an “attestation”, a paper filled out with a valid reason to be outside. 100,000 police officers have been deployed to implement the confinement and fine anyone with no paper. The French have taken some time to adjust to the new measures, but they are slowly starting to comply. 


For many in France, a light of hope is coming from Didier Raoult, a French virologist from Marseille. He was one of the first to administer the malaria drug to covid patients with satisfying results. In a country more divided than ever, as last year’s Gilets Jaunes protests have shown, he is seen by some as more trustworthy, because he is perceived as not being part of the Paris elite. He has been hailed by politicians on the right.  However, Françoise Barré-Simoussi, a Nobel Prize winning scientist, advised France that it was “unethical to give people false hope before proof”. Scientists in Europe and globally are now studying the protocol in larger trials, in the hope of finding a cure. 


Stay home and Safe!