Lockdown Diary: Why I’m grateful for being on lockdown in Paris

“I’m grateful to be living in France, where there is universal healthcare and where the president has chosen to save human lives over the economy.”

Today, March 25, is the eighth full day of living in true confinement. As of Tuesday, March 17, at noon, the whole country of France has been on lockdown.

It was nearly two weeks ago that President Emmanuel Macron earnestly asked us to stay home, and the Prime Minister Édouard Philippe ordered all non-essential businesses to close at midnight. By March 15, there were whispers on the street that the government would be locking down, with the military and all, because the people here weren’t taking it seriously, and the infection and death rates were rising.

I’d been preparing for weeks.

Food Stored in Apt: Eileen Cho during Paris lockdown
The author’s stored food and books. 
Eileen W. Cho

Because most of my family is located in South Korea and Seattle, Washington, two places that were hit hard by the pandemic, and

Continue reading “Lockdown Diary: Why I’m grateful for being on lockdown in Paris”

France ‘at war’: how Parisians are coping with life under lockdown

Residents of the French capital are adjusting to the country’s toughest restrictions on public life outside wartime

And suddenly, it was August. Grudgingly but obediently, the rue des Martyrs in Paris’s ninth arrondissement entered lockdown at midday on Tuesday, the few people on its pavements making their way home, baguettes and shopping bags in hand.

By 12.30pm, half an hour after France’s new reality – in essence, no going out unless to buy food or essentials, visit the doctor or get to a job certified as not doable from home – came into force, the normally bustling shopping street had emptied. Continue reading “France ‘at war’: how Parisians are coping with life under lockdown”

A Letter From Wartime France

Streets that are normally busy, all of a sudden aren’t.

At noon today, as France slipped into confinement, I looked down from my balcony at the street below. A few people were riding bikes or walking. At the tobacconist next to the closed café, a woman was wiping down the door frame. The street is normally busy, and all of a sudden it wasn’t. For the next two weeks, and likely longer, we cannot go out except for urgent reasons: food, medicine, or essential work. A nationwide lockdown, enforced by police. “We are at war,” French President Emmanuel Macron said six times in a speech yesterday evening. “The enemy is there—invisible, elusive—and it is advancing.”

Macron is right. COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has killed thousands and will likely kill thousands more, a tsunami that doctors have been warning will overwhelm the health-care system, as it’s already doing in neighboring Italy, the country hardest hit by this virus after China. This weekend, the government ordered all restaurants, cafés, and retail stores closed in France.

And finally, last night, Macron followed Italy and Spain—but not Britain or the United States—and mandated confinement to slow the exponential spread of the virus. Overnight, Macron, who was elected on a fluke and has faced popular revolts and flagging popularity, has become a war president.

We are at war. How strange to hear those words in Europe in 2020. It’s impossible, here in Paris, not to think of the Second World War. Not since Continue reading “A Letter From Wartime France”

Sour notes for Macron from striking Paris Opera musicians

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a compromise between his government and unions over plans to change the pension system that have led to sustained strikes — including from Paris Opera musicians who staged a street concert in rebellion.

PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a compromise between his government and unions over plans to change the pension system that have led to sustained strikes — including from Paris Opera musicians who staged a street concert in rebellion.

In a spirited, makeshift performance, Paris Opera musicians played excerpts Tuesday from “Carmen” and “Romeo and Juliet” on the front steps of the Opera Bastille, which served as a dramatic reminder of the rocky start to 2020 that awaits Macron.

Tuesday marked the 27th consecutive day of transport strikes. The Versailles Palace, usually a huge tourist draw, said it was closed Tuesday because of strikes, too.

In his televised New Year’s address, Macron said the pension overhaul “will be carried out” but called on his government to “find the path of a quick compromise” as negotiations with unions resume in early January.

Seeking to ease tensions, he suggested people with painful work will be allowed early retirement.

Yet Macron stayed firm on the principles of the reform, including its most decried measure: raising the eligibility age for full pensions from 62 to 64. He insisted that the new system will be fairer and financially sustainable.

“My only compass is our country’s interest,” he said.

Musicians who have put down their instruments since open-ended strikes started Dec. 5 reveled in the chance to play for the crowd that gathered to hear them on Paris’ Place de la Bastille, the site of an infamous prison stormed by a revolutionary mob on July 14, 1789, and then demolished.

“We’re all at the bottom of a deep hole being unable to play since Dec. 5,” said violinist Emilie Belaud.

But, she added, orchestra members are determined to hold firm. The Paris Opera has had to cancel all its scheduled ballets and operas since Dec. 5 — 63 performances in all.

“If the government persists in being stubborn and refusing to negotiate in good conditions, we’ll carry on,” Belaud vowed.

The crowd chanted for the abandonment of the retirement overhaul. They also cried, “We’re united! General strike!”

Macron wants to unify France’s 42 different pension plans into a single one, giving all workers the same general rights. [ . . . ]

Source: Sour notes for Macron from striking Paris Opera musicians