Paris – The iron curtains are drawn, the chairs of the brasseries are piling up, cyclists and pedestrians hurry up to get home. In a simultaneous ballet, the Parisians entered Saturday at 9:00 p.m. sharp for their first night of curfew.
After a last burst of activity, the streets gradually freeze into silence. Paris had not known an equivalent situation since 1961, in a completely different context, when a strict curfew had been decreed for the French Muslims in Algeria.
It is 10 p.m., but it could be 5 a.m. In the Latin Quarter, one of the favorite haunts of students and tourists in the capital before the epidemic, the streets emptied in less than an hour.
“It is speaking. It is 9:00 p.m. and there is no one left. The situation is almost clean“, welcomes Commissioner Patrick Caron, of the Directorate of Public Order and Traffic (DOPC) of the Prefecture of Police, responsible this evening for ensuring compliance with the new rules.
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To curb the spread of the virus, the inhabitants of a dozen large cities, including Paris and its suburbs, – 20 million people in total – have been subject since Saturday to a curfew from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. for at least four weeks.
The authorities have deployed a reinforcement of 1,350 police and gendarmes to apply the new device in the capital and the inner suburbs.
– “My daughter is in the hospital” –
The teams of Commissioner Caron begin their patrol around the restaurants and cafes of Luxembourg. “This is no longer the time for teaching, but for the penalty, in the event of an offense, it is a 4th class fine (135 euros – editor’s note) and the risk of an administrative closure“, warns the commissioner.
But tonight, his team remained empty-handed. Quickly, the conversations between his men revolve around this new vision of a Paris almost at a standstill. Not the slightest open business, except for the few establishments authorized to carry out take-out.
The streets of Paris are also becoming the kingdom of food delivery men, who zigzag on their bikes or scooters, their neon refrigerated bags on their backs. Some buses, also authorized to circulate, double at full speed, empty, for the most part.
The rare pedestrians, less than ten encountered at this intersection in half an hour, all have a good reason to be still outside.
A worried-looking man walks towards the cordon of gendarmes, a piece of paper in his hand. “I have just returned from the Curie hospital where my daughter is operated on and the hospital gave me proof“, says the passer-by, unfolding his sesame.
“It’s square, good evening sir“, replied Commissioner Caron, browsing the document.”It’s like during confinement, we exercise good judgment“, he assures, especially for homeless people.
But he says he also expects some eccentric excuses or a little too tinkered with certificates.