Bastille Day: Muted celebrations in France under shadow of Covid-19

France celebrates its national day, Bastille Day, on Tuesday, July 14 and rehearsals have been taking place in recent days for the traditional flypast over Paris, but this year’s celebrations are set to be a much more muted affair following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rehearsals for France's Bastille Day are conducted in Paris on July 9,2020.
Rehearsals for France's Bastille Day are conducted in Paris on July 9,2020. © Reuters / France 24

Bastille Day celebrations usually see a vast air show and parade down the Champs-Élysées, featuring around 4,000 military personnel followed by a fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower watched by tens of thousands of spectators.

This year though, the parade will be held at the smaller Place de la Concorde with just half the number of participants and only around 2,500 spectators, while the fireworks display will still take place but without the public.

Those on parade will also have to take precautions to minimise the risk of spreading infection.

"Yes, we're wearing the masks,” Warrant Officer Guillaum, a flight engineer, told AFP.

“We're lucky. We have the only aircraft with air conditioning. I think that for the others, it can get very hot very quickly. Yes, we are wearing masks because obviously, in a cockpit, we can't distance ourselves unfortunately."

The scaled-down celebrations have left some in the French capital disappointed.

"It's a national holiday that everyone loves to celebrate. We see everyone in the streets on the television. Right now, of course, we understand that with the coronavirus, we can't do the same, and so it will be a bit weird because of that,” Paris resident Ariana Santos told Reuters.

But this year’s celebrations will also be used as a tribute to medical and military personnel who helped in the fight against Covid-19, which has killed more than 30,000 people in France, including thanking the German military for helping to evacuate French patients to German hospitals at the height of the crisis.

"We have foreign planes, including two British Typhoon planes and a German A400M. It's to thank our German colleagues for being committed alongside ourselves in the fight against Covid-19, since the first evacuation with an A400M was conducted by our German colleagues,” General Laurent Lherbette of the French Air Force told Reuters.

“And so, there will be Germans in the parade, and for them, it's also something new since, all things considered, it's a very French atmosphere.”

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Take international news everywhere with you! Download the France 24 app