Parisians enjoy last night out before Covid-19 curfew comes into force
Thousands of Parisians enjoyed a last night out on Friday ahead of a curfew aimed at stemming the second wave of Covid-19 infections. From now on, around 20 million people in the Paris greater area and eight other French cities will have to be home by 9 pm.
A loud "cheers!" erupts from the Au Doux Raisin, a bar in Paris' Latin Quarter, as glasses full of red wine chink together. A group of drunk students celebrate their last night out half an hour before a Covid-19 curfew comes into force in the French capital.
The bar manager glances uneasily as a police car appears in the street, slowing down as it passed by the rapturous gathering.
"No more drinks for tonight!" the manager firmly tells clients pleading for a last glass of wine.
Most bars in the area were already closing, with waitresses cleaning tables and stacking chairs. The most forgiving barmen did serve a last drink in a plastic cup – and then asked customers to leave the premises and go drink it elsewhere.
Even the ubiquitous shops selling crêpes or kebabs turned off their cooking hobs and grills before midnight struck.
Similar scenes happened around Paris and eight other large French cities on the evening of October 16 as a Covid curfew came into force at midnight.
From October 17, any person out after 9 pm will be required to carry a permit providing a valid reason being outside. Coming back from work, going out to fetch medicines or walking one's dog are valid reasons. Meeting friends, visiting relatives, eating out or going for a drink at nighttime will not be allowed anymore until December 1.
Violating the nighttime curfew will carry a fine of €135 for a first offense, and €1500 if it is repeated. French authorities insisted that this strict 9 pm to 6 am curfew was necessary to curb an alarming surge in Covid-19 infections.
Thousands of people went out on Friday evening in the French capital as the curtain was about to fall on Parisian nightlife.
"It's the last evening where we can have drinks with friends so we decided to go out and enjoy it," Walid Sadou, a 29-year-old engineer, told FRANCE 24. "I can see the point of the curfew, it's necessary if we want to avoid a new lockdown. We'll try our best but we are still human beings, at some stage we will need to gather again."
Others criticised French authorities for not doing enough to limit infections in public transport.
"They impose a curfew but do nothing about the metro, which is very crowded. The French government is acting like if there was no Covid before 9pm," Giulano Binda, a 25-year-old Swiss student told FRANCE 24. "Most students will go to private home parties instead, in places where there are absolutely no sanitary precautions."
As to bar and restaurant owners, they consider the nighttime curfew as the last straw for their businesses. The hospitality sector is still struggling to recover from the losses caused by the nationwide lockdown this spring. Opening just for lunch doesn't make sense for most restaurants.
"We will stay open for the week-end, and then that's it!" Michel Lironis, owner of the restaurant "Les Baux" told FRANCE 24. The curfew brought him back bad memories from his youth in Greece, when a junta took power and restricted civil liberties.
"A curfew means fear and dead streets. It's not possible to stay open in these conditions," said Lironis as he dismantled the wooden pallets he had used to build an open-air terrace.
A few hundreds metres down in the same street, the owner of "Les Cinq" restaurant, Alexandre Nguyen, said that he expected to lose 60 percent of his business turnover because of the curfew.
"Financially speaking, it's not worth it. But we have decided to stay open because it's important to keep a relationship with our clients so that they come back when the situation improves," Nguyen told FRANCE 24.
"The virus is going to be with us for a while and we have to adapt."
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