Oh, what a bore! It didn’t take long for Parisians to get sick ...

World

Oh, what a bore! It didn’t take long for Parisians to get sick of lockdown

Stuck in cramped apartments, their initial acceptance of a new way of life soon gave way to tetchiness

Joe Burgis

Ten days ago, I visited the Panthéon in Paris, where lie the remains of Alexandre Dumas. In his novel The Count of Monte Cristo, the hero Edmond Dantès is unjustly imprisoned for 14 years, during which time he is educated by a sage fellow inmate, L’Abbé Faria, and learns the ultimate lesson that “all human wisdom is summed up in these two words – ‘wait’ and ‘hope’.”

These and other monosyllables came to mind when Emmanuel Macron announced on March 16 that France would be shutting down in order to fight the coronavirus. The previous day, Parisians had found a way around the closure of the bars by taking to the parks; then rumours circulated that tanks were preparing to enter the city. There was a rush to leave. Many faced difficult decisions as to whether they could risk infecting elderly family members. One Parisienne had to choose which of her boyfriends to self-isolate with.

A 15-day lockdown began at noon on March 17, and I have been stranded in Paris ever since. The city is cramped, and thousands were suddenly stuck inside small apartments. The initial rules dictated that you could go out only for food, medical reasons or exercise (smartly dressed Parisians out for a stroll were seen to burst into star jumps at the sight of a police officer), and you had to print off a form, declare on it why you were out, and sign it. If you didn’t, you faced a fine of up to €375 (R7,000)...

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