PARIS >> The scenes in Paris resembled a regular lazy weekend morning — light traffic, a sprinkling of people on the sidewalks. But this was a Friday.
What would normally have been a bustling weekday marked the start of a nationwide four-week government-imposed lockdown in France to fight a resurgent coronavirus threatening to swamp the country’s health system.
Parisians — along with the rest of this nation of 67 million — were confined to their homes as of Friday, for the second time in seven months, under a presidential decree ratified by Parliament.
Citizens have been ordered to stay at home at all times with no visitors, or risk steep fines or prosecution. They are allowed out for one hour of exercise a day, or for medical appointments or to shop for essential goods.
On Friday in the popular 10th arondissement neighborhood, sidewalks were generally empty, with just a few passersby hurrying past and clutching lockdown exception forms — well-known since the country’s first lockdown and known simply by their French name, “attestation.”
Restaurants and cafés were shuttered, apart from those that offered takeout, such as the brightly-lit McDonald’s near the Stalingrad metro station.
The only places that were busy were supermarkets as residents stockpiled essential food and goods.
Many Parisians didn’t wait to be confined to their typically cramped apartments for four weeks.
Freeways around the capital descended into scenes of traffic chaos during the night as residents fled the capital. French media reported that logjams stretched some 700 kilometers (435 miles) in the region around Paris as many headed for country or family homes with more space.
Many were also leaving for the important All Saints’ Day holiday this weekend.
French President Emmanuel Macron said that authorities would be “tolerant” about families returning from the holidays on Monday, but otherwise interregional travel is strictly prohibited.