Update 2020-03-17, 16:03:43 European Time: I went out just now. I was stopped by two police, two times and I was asked where were my justification paper to leave my home (see below the form – Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire). I got off on a warning. Also, the police have barricades on all roads leading into the city. No paper no entry and you will get a fine. Also, you must have a new justification paper each day new and dated. Hmmm, 65 million papers for each person each day? Are you kidding? No electronic versions accepted. Today you can sign your own justification, tomorrow?
We didn’t think it could happen, but it has. A world has gone mad. Regardless of real data and your opinions of whether the media is overhyping or not, a global response is upon us. We have been getting reports around the globe on actions various governments are doing over Coronavirus.
See here a media report. The restrictions will be in place for at least 15 days, Mr. Macron added, vowing to punish any infringement. The government later said more than 100,000 officers would be deployed nationwide to enforce the lockdown. President Macron also said the army would be used to help transport the sick to hospital and that the second round of local elections due this weekend was being postponed. He also offered reassurance to businesses, saying: “No French company, whatever its size, will be exposed to the risk of collapse.”
In this article, I just wanted to report what I have seen on the ground in France and my trip to the local supermarket. France, like many countries, is on full lockdown. What does this mean?
- The borders are closed.
- All schools and universities are closed.
- Events greater than 100 people are prohibited – under penalty of fines if organizations do not comply.
- All shops are closed unless you are a pharmacy or a store that sells food basics (supermarkets). I have friends that have shops, and the police are roaming the streets to see if any store has not complied – under penalty of fines (38 to 135 euros). I saw one shop that tried to open, a confrontation ensued, and the shop owner was taken away by the police.
- The streets of my 80,000 population city where I am American ex-pat are essentially empty – it is surreal. There are a few people wandering the streets, but we have been told to maintain a 1-meter distance between yourself and someone you meet.
- Prior today, people were already fist-bumping to say “Bonjour.” The two side-cheek kiss and shaking hands were already voluntarily not done. Now, not even fist-bumping is done.
- I have not tried, but the local reports say that flights are not leaving the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. The high-speed trains (TGV) internal to France are still running, but there is talk these may shut down soon as well. Metro systems as well – they are I know Petri dishes of all kinds of diseases. So if one would shut down a small shop, why not the train system?
I had already done some stocking of food prior to today, but I wanted to go to the local supermarket to see what was there and top up. What I found was surprising and surreal. See the feature photo of this article. The local authorities were only allowing groups of 20 to go into the supermarket. So I waited in line for about an hour before my group was allowed in. So much for 1-meter spacing, the crowd (or mob) started to get quite testy about the wait. Some minor skirmishes broke out over people cutting in line. This was just the first day, but I kept wondering if this situation continues, would these skirmishes break out into even more serious confrontations – one could see society break down in front of your eyes.
After the hour of wait, I finally got into the supermarket. I tried to take some photos of what I saw, but security told me to stop taking photos. Below were two that I managed to sneak. If I did not stop taking photos, the security made it clear that I would be escorted off of the premises.
Here is my short summary of what I saw – again, the overall comment is that it was surreal:
- The supermarket was filled with only about half the normal customers. I was told this controlled entry was to stop people from hoarding.
- Once in the store, it felt a bit like a funeral, people were not talking, rather rushing to get their items and get out.
- Conservable items (pasta, canned goods, dry goods, etc …) on their normal shelves were de-stocked and placed in central areas with security rationing the amount of product one could buy. In some cases, only premium products were available (i.e., pasta). In other cases, they were not even available (i.e., lentils).
- Some panic buying and scuffles broke out – arguing with security officials why they needed extra rationing. So far not too bad, but imagine if the stocks run even lower?
- All the staff was wearing plastic gloves. They were half staffed to what they normally would be.
- The self-checkout was closed. For people entering their pins for credit card purchases, they had toilet paper available to cover the pin pad. Ahh, a reason to stock toilet paper at last.
- The loudspeaker in the store kept admonishing the patrons to keep the 1-meter distance from each other. You can see in the photo above, that they had even marked out the 1-meter spacing where you were to stand prior to checkout.
- Plastic sheeting was everywhere – see photo. Most likely to shield patrons for the staff, but maybe both ways. When asking for service (i.e., deli) or in the checkout lines, one would have to speak to the cashier thought the plastic sheeting and place items under the plastic sheeting.
An SMS text message was sent to all mobile phones in France by the government:
Travel is prohibited (for the next 15 days) except in the following cases and only if you have papers to justify your leaving your home – click here – Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire:
- Move from home to work when telework is not possible.
- Make essential purchases in authorized local shops.
- Go to a health professional.
- Travel for childcare or to help vulnerable people with the strict condition of respecting barriers.
- Exercise only on an individual basis, around the home and without any gathering.
Again, I am not going to go into whether any of this makes sense. Here is an article we have written before on this subject – Coronavirus Pandemic or Media Pandemic? But one thing is for sure, society is breaking down. If you believe governments are conditioning the public for something – they are doing a very good job at it.
Is this martial law? They say it will only last right now for two weeks. But looking at the recovery curves, this may go on at least for another eight weeks – maybe more. Where is all this going? Please provide any local reports you may have in the comment section of this article.