Shops and businesses across France were filled on Thursday with people vying for supplies – and perhaps a last-minute haircut – before a new coronavirus lockout went into effect at midnight.
Essentials like pasta and toilet paper were in high demand, as were printer inks and electronics for working from home, while yoga mats were not to be found in many French sports shops.
“I’m quitting because we do not know when this will end,” said Catherine Debeaupuis, shopping at an electronics retailer in central Paris.
Nearly 33 million people saw President Emmanuel Macron announce the grim news in a prime-time speech on Wednesday – just five days after saying “it’s still too early” to consider new lockdowns.
The president said hospitals would soon be overwhelmed by a virus that was spreading “at a rate that even the most pessimistic did not predict.”
On Thursday, the Public Health Agency announced 47,637 new infections within 24 hours and 235 deaths, pushing the total number beyond 36,000.
Still, several lawmakers bowed in parliament on Thursday as Prime Minister Jean Castex assured that “we knew this second wave would come,” even though a solid majority – 399 to 27 – voted to approve the new lockdown.
Castex said schools that are allowed to remain open as opposed to the first March to May closure will require face masks for children as young as six, down from 11 and older until now.
He warned that the second epidemic wave “would probably be more deadly” than the first, which erupted in March and claimed about 30,000 lives before easing in the summer only to return with new strength.
With a ban on shuffling the only remaining option, Castex announced that working from home again from Friday will be the norm.
People are only allowed to leave home if they are armed with a self-signed certificate stating their urgent business – food shopping, taking the kids to school, going to work if this cannot be done from home, going to the hospital or a pharmacy.
A certificate would also be required for people who want to run or walk their dog within an hour limit and no further than a mile (0.6 miles) from home.
Funeral for funeral will be limited to 30 and six for weddings.
Those found violating the rules, which will be politicized, risk a fine of 135 euros, the prime minister said.
‘Something that lasts’
Like others in a crowded supermarket in Paris, Mourad Amarouche loaded on toilet paper and pasta for his family.
“Just one of each, we need to stay calm,” he said. “There will be no shortage, but I hope not to have to return tomorrow when there will be lots of people.”
Hairdressers rejected desperate customers, many of whom were not convinced the shutdown would ease on Dec. 1, as Macron said he hoped.
“Give me something that lasts for a while,” said Oulaya, a 50-year-old woman who managed to get a seat in the Angelo Capelli salon on Place de la Republique in eastern Paris.
In the bubbly La Defense business district west of the capital, employees made one last commute to transfer landlines to cell phones or give office facilities one last watering.
Several people pulled suitcases to empty their offices of important files or laptops.
As many Parisians tried to flee to country houses or other havens to drive out of the lockdown, the National Transportation Agency reported unusually large traffic jams in the capital on Wednesday night, just before Macron spoke.
And as the emigration continued Thursday, others had to retire for long hours at home, many of them in small town apartments.
“I just bought some incredibly expensive ‘zen’ candles to feel better when I get home,” said Mehdi Lacheb, a 34-year-old pharmacist.
Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said the second incarceration would result in a nearly 15 percent drop in economic activity, but the government would provide $ 15 billion. Euro ($ 17.5 billion) pr. Month in support of affected companies.