France’s national scientific council is urging leaders to act now to counter the spread of the disease, which saw 10,000 new cases in a single day on Thursday. However, questions remains whether the French will be willing to heed new restrictions.
“No matter what social class you belong to, you sit down for lunch in France”
People sometimes remark that eating cheese and drinking red wine may contribute to French people’s good health.
But French-Australian chef Guillaume Brahimi says these ways aren’t a part of the diet that he knows. Instead, he thinks the French’s healthy habits include honouring meals and slowing down to savour food.
Lunch, a meal that here in Australia we expect to be quick and easy to devour, is a leisurely, planned affair in France. Often a French family will gather to cook something and take the time out of their day to eat. “No matter what social class you belong to, you sit down for lunch in France,” says Brahimi.
Part of this respect for meal times comes from the esteem that the French place on food. Branavie Ranjithakumaran, a Melbourne-based dietitian, says that the way they regard food differs from other parts of the West, where there’s an underlying fear about the damage food may cause to the body.
Ranjithakumaran says, “[In France], there is emphasis placed on the social and psychological aspects that come along with the food. It’s not enough to consume it in a short period of time. It’s a real point in the day to stop, slow down, and be mindful, then be able to reset for the rest of the day.”
It’s time to follow Europe.
What France, like virtually all of Europe, has shown is that following standard expert recommendations for dealing with covid-19 works. France had a massive outbreak of covid-19 in the spring, almost as soon as anyone realized the novel coronavirus had reached Europe. The deaths began occurring late March and reached more than 24,000 by the end of April — a higher death rate than even the United States at the time.
But while the outbreak occurred primarily in only two parts of France, French President Emmanuel Macron imposed a severe, nationwide lockdown on March 16. And during that lockdown, the government put extensive testing and contact tracing in place. Almost exactly two months later, France mostly reopened. And for the last two and a half months, the country has functioned in a primarily open status with around 500 new cases per day and only about 450 deaths in the last month.
The French lockdown was severe. People were only allowed out, after filling out a form, to take care of elderly relatives or to go grocery shopping. To buffer the economic impact, the government directly paid a portion of salaries for those who could not work. And, voila, it worked.
I’m in France because I was farsighted enough to marry a French woman 30 years ago, who was farsighted enough to save our marriage license, which let me fly to France with her in early June to visit her elderly parents even as other Americans are barred. For two weeks, we kept to ourselves, speaking to my in-laws only across a garden. With an easy-to-get doctor’s prescription, we were also able to get tested for covid-19 at a parking lot drive-up with no wait and received (negative) results in two days (now down to one day for others).
Health authorities in France are warning of a “worrying development” of the coronavirus, as new clusters are reported across the country, and the crucial “R” transmission rate rises above 2 in Brittany, and 1 elsewhere.
Health minister Olivier Véran has said that there are “small signs” that the virus is returning in Paris, as health authority l’Agence Régionale de Santé (ARS) of Nouvelle-Aquitaine issued its own warning about a rise in cases in the region. Continue reading “Coronavirus: which parts of France are seeing more cases?”
France is not unique in seeing its service industry shut down in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. But compared to other countries, France has a robust safety net of social security, unemployment, and healthcare. France has also implemented emergency measures that may prevent many of these businesses from going under.
As French restaurants begin to slowly reopen for outdoor service, the culinary landscape in France looks very different when compared to the United States.
Government Aid: Two Countries, Two Philosophies
In March, President Emmanuel Macron said he would do “whatever it takes” to ensure that no company, big or small, collapsed under the financial weight of the pandemic. He announced 300 billion euros in loan guarantees and tax exemptions. The government also played a role in negotiating rent forgiveness for restaurants.
Perhaps even more helpful, at least in the short-term, were easy-to-access “solidarity funds:” 1500 euros per month given tax-free to small businesses, compounded with an additional allowance of up to 2500 euros from URSSAF, a social security union for small businesses. On April 15, Gérald Darmainn, Minister of Public Action and Accounts, also announced that the restaurant industry’s taxes and social charges – about 750 million euros – would be forgiven instead of merely suspended for the duration of administrative closure.
In the U.S., by contrast, most small restaurants didn’t qualify for loans, while huge corporations like McDonald’s and Shake Shack did. According to the New York Times, big chains were able to access “tens of millions of dollars while many smaller restaurants walked away with nothing when the $349 billion fund was exhausted [April 16].” The Los Angeles Times reported that those small businesses that did qualify were reluctant to apply for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program because of the “strings” attached to loans.
Restaurant Workers Feed Us, But Can They Eat?
As far as restaurant employees are concerned, in France, most are secure within the net of the country’s robust social structure. When forced closures were announced mid-March, restaurant workers were encouraged to first use up their paid vacation (an average of about five weeks per year) before becoming eligible for partial unemployment (the equivalent of 84 percent of their salary.) Continue reading “Are French Restaurants More Likely than American to Survive the Lockdown?”
Traore thanked BET, an American television channel dedicated to African-American and minority people, for the award, calling it “an acknowledgment of our fight.”
“It’s an acknowledgment for all the victims, for all the families who keep fighting for truth and justice,” she said in a video message played during the virtual awards ceremony.
The award is “BET International’s recognition of public figures who use their platform for social responsibility and goodness while demonstrating a commitment to the welfare of the global Black community,” according to the channel’s website.
Before her brother’s death, Traore, who has been dubbed the French Angela Davis after the US political activist, had never been someone who campaigned for a cause.
But the 35-year-old mother of three was thrust into the heart of the global fight against police violence and racism by the death in Minneapolis police custody last month of George Floyd.
For four years, she campaigned, organized demonstrations, spoke out publicly and gave numerous interviews after alleging her brother was killed by the police. An investigation is still ongoing.
For a long time, the “Adama fight” remained a local battle unnoticed outside France. But the death of George Floyd has catapulted it into the global consciousness.
Thousands of people demonstrated in Paris in early June and hundreds of others took to the streets across France against racism.
“In the name of my brother, I will change everything I can change,” Traore told AFP on Saturday.