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”