New survey shows more than half the French flout Covid-19 lockdown rules

More than half of the French have broken the rules governing the second coronavirus lockdown, a survey showed Thursday, mid-way through the new confinement period, and as figures confirmed France now has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Europe.

Nursing staff take care of a Covid-19 patient at the Loire private hospital in Saint-Etienne, France on November 6, 2020.
Nursing staff take care of a Covid-19 patient at the Loire private hospital in Saint-Etienne, France on November 6, 2020. © Jeff Pachoud, AFP

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The Ifop survey confirmed that the French are taking the second nationwide shutdown far less seriously than the first in March-April.

It showed that 60 percent had flouted the rules at least once, either by giving a false reason for going out on their self-signed permission slip or by meeting up with family and friends.

The figure was far higher than during the first lockdown when the proportion of rule-breakers stood at under 40 percent during the first six weeks.

The most common transgression (24 percent of respondents) was giving a false reason for going out on the permission slips that all citizens are required to download and fill out before leaving home.

Others flouted the rules by having family around to visit or went to visit family (24 percent) or met up with friends (20 percent).

Nine percent of respondents said they ventured out to meet up with a current or prospective sexual partner, 3 percentage points more than during the first confinement period.

Over one in four – 28 percent – of those questioned said they were feeling blue, compared with one in five in March-April.

The survey also confirmed that the second lockdown, coming in the heart of winter, is taking a greater toll on public morale than the first, a trend backed by other mental healthcare professionals.

In an interview with FRANCE 24 earlier this month, Dr Astrid Chevance, psychiatrist and researcher in epidemiology at the Paris-based Centre of Research in Epidemiology and StatisticS (CRESS), said that the mental health consequences of the second lockdown could potentially be greater because of the seasonally depressive effects of winter and a lockdown fatigue among the populace.

“Unlike the first lockdown, mental health surveys – such as the one carried out by Santé Publique France [the French national health agency] – show that the population today is particularly tired," said Dr Chevance. "Depressive symptoms are already very marked and could rapidly increase in the future.”

“People have become aware that we are faced with a phenomenon that is not totally controllable and whose outcome we do not know.

“In addition, we were already forced to change our habits during the first lockdown, which may have been an ordeal for many. Despite these efforts, we now see that they were not enough. So there’s a general psychic wear-and-tear because we don't see the end of this health crisis.”

A growing sense of weariness is already evident, particularly in major cities, including the capital.

In Paris and Bordeaux residents told FRANCE 24 that they had become frustrated by the lockdown rules that include having to carry a signed permit indicating the reason for leaving home.

“I forgot this morning. It annoys me,” said one man when asked whether he was carrying his permit. “What’s this business of needing a form just to go outside?”

In Bordeaux, people said they were similarly fed up with the paperwork. “I don’t want to fill in a form just to say I’m having a burger on the quay,” a woman said.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has ordered police to increase checks to address concerns of laxity among the French.

After seeing a lull in Covid-19 cases over the summer France now has the highest number of cases in Europe with 1,914,919 on November 12, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

France, which has lost over 42,000 people to Covid-19, went back into lockdown on October 30 to try to tame a second wave of infections that experts warn could be deadlier than the first.

On Monday, the country recorded 551 deaths from the virus, the highest daily figures since the first wave in March and April.

France’s health director Jérôme Salomon told a news conference on November 9 that the peak of the coronavirus pandemic was still to come.

“We are at a crucial moment,” Salomon warned.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Jean Castex will address reporters about the timid progress made on slowing the spread of the virus in the past two weeks.

Small traders fighting for survival had been hoping he would use the occasion to announce that all shops selling non-essential items, such as books and flowers, could reopen.

But Health Minister Olivier Véran warned it was "too soon" to begin relaxing the restrictions, which was echoed by Castex.

"It's certainly not the moment to drop our guard," the Prime Minister told Le Monde newspaper.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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