Paris police disperse Montmartre crowd, enforcing Covid-19 social distancing

People sit on the stairs in front of the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris, on May 12, 2020, on the second day of France's easing of lockdown measures in place for 55 days to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
People sit on the stairs in front of the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris, on May 12, 2020, on the second day of France's easing of lockdown measures in place for 55 days to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. © Bertrand Guay, AFP

Paris police had to disperse a crowd of revellers on Tuesday evening in front of the Sacré-Coeur basilica in the city’s picturesque Montmartre area. Social distancing measures remain in place to combat Covid-19, despite France ending its lockdown on the previous day.

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Beneath the distinctive, almost Byzantine domed grace of the Sacré-Coeur – on the iconic Montmartre hill, with its sublime panorama of the City of Lights – a crowd of people gathered to drink and celebrate after two months of full-blown confinement measures ended.

To ensure that the lifting of the lockdown does not provoke a resurgence of the coronavirus, gatherings of more than 10 people are banned and people are asked to stay at least two metres away from each other. Consequently, police asked the crowd to disperse.

France slowly emerged from its torpor on Monday as hairdressers, florists, nail salons and some other businesses reopened.

But restaurants and bars – at the heart of France’s proverbial joie de vivre – are still waiting to learn when they will be back in business and cafe life can resume under the French government’s phased-in lifting of restrictions it imposed to stem the country's coronavirus outbreak. 

The revelry in Montmartre came after police in the French capital declared a ban on consuming alcoholic drinks at waterfronts on Monday night, after crowds of people gathered along the banks of the River Seine and the Canal Saint-Martin in east of Paris.

“It’s not over. The virus continues to circulate,” Health Minister Olivier Véran told reporters during a visit to Limeil-Brevannes in the Paris region.

Véran argued that the scenes witnessed along the canal and the Seine on Monday showed how difficult it is to ensure people comply with a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

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