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Paris under COVID-19: United despite the quarantine
Despite the lockdown, Paris residents have found ways to remain positive and help those in need, while continuing to foster their sense of community.
On Monday, March 16th, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the beginning of a nationwide confinement to begin the following day at noon, inviting French residents to stay home and reduce any outings to a strict minimum and for solely necessary reasons. Despite the lockdown, however, Paris residents and shop owners have united from afar, whether through food donations and nightly applause for medical workers, to “balcony parties” on Friday evenings.
Solidarity with medical workers
Since the quarantine started, citizens from all over Europe have been showing their solidarity for medical workers, who have been fighting tirelessly for weeks against the pandemic, through nightly applause. Each evening at 8 PM, people are opening their windows and clapping, whistling, and shouting words of encouragement for medical personnel. Videos shared on social media show that the movement has taken off in Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg, and even Ajaccio.
Raphaël Glucksmann, an MEP within the S&D alliance, launched the movement in France by sharing his message of support on Twitter: “They brave danger, exhaustion, lack of means. For us. Our medical workers are heroes. Let’s show them our solidarity, our admiration. Like Italy and Spain, let’s all stand at our window to applaud them? At 7:00 tonight. Then every night after that. #OnApplaudit”
The post was shared several hundred times on Twitter, and on Facebook, the event page garnered more than 3,000 participants. Even the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), an institution grouping together all hospitals in Paris and Ile-de-France, reacted: “Thank you. Hands together for our medical workers and for all our mobilized staff.” Now, one week after the first tentative claps were heard, the resounding nightly applause continues as loud as ever.
Restaurants and pastry shops donating food
In the days leading up the announcement of an official quarantine procedure, all French bars, restaurants, cafés and shops deemed “non-essential to the life of the country” were made to close on Saturday 15 April at midnight. Although the French government pledges to support these businesses, guaranteeing that “no French company will be exposed to the risk of collapsing,” most are still rightly concerned about the economic toll this will have on business.
Amidst the anxiety, however, some shop owners have taken the hit as an opportunity to give back to their community during this trying time. Instead of letting their stocks expire during the two-week confinement, many are donating their supplies. Xavier Denamur, owner of five well-known bistros in the Marais, decided to give his stock of quality-sourced meats, cheeses, pâtés, and vegetables to his staff. Employees were invited to take whatever food they wanted before Denamur donated the rest to neighborhood residents.
Chocolate companies, who were readily preparing for Easter, have also found themselves with excess supply. Paris chocolatier Jacques Genin launched “The Giving Program” which invites “all the companies that can” to “give courage and comfort” to medical personnel “who devote their lives to saving ours every day”. As part of his program, Genin donated nearly 400 kilos in chocolates to AP-HP medical workers.
Belgian chocolate-marketer Pierre Marcolini followed suit, donating stock from his Paris shops to AP-HP medical personnel. These gestures of solidarity have been made possible by “En première ligne,” an association connecting organisations on the front line in the fight against COVID-19 with those who wish to help.
The Marcolini boutique in London is also giving its chocolates to The Princess Alice Hospice, and in Belgium, the company is talking with local hospital associations to do the same.
Friday night cocktail hour
Last Friday, March 20th, after the now-traditional applause at 8 PM to thank healthcare staff, some neighbors stayed at their windows, a glass in hand. It was the first-ever apéro aux fenêtres, a neighborly cocktail hour uniting residents from their respective balconies or out of their windows. Neighbors checked in on each other, chatting and exchanging words of encouragement and advice, and playing music.
According to Gaël, a 35 year-old father in Belleville, these apéros can “help break the routine” of confinement, and above all, help residents “fight against the virus the only way we can.” Across the street from him, John, a 26 year-old DJ, played on his balcony for an hour or so, creating a lively social ambiance for everyone present.
Earlier, in a street adjacent to the Canal Saint-Martin, Redouane, aka DJ Day Win, began mixing at 6:30 PM. He’s been playing every night since the first night of confinement. “My husband’s a DJ and he thought, ‘We might as well share the music with the people in the street and give them a morale boost, even if we can’t come together,'” explained Khadija, his wife, from their balcony.
Sources: Coronavirus: les chocolatiers parisiens offrent leur production aux hôpitaux; France’s Bistros Close, in a Frenzy of Donated Cheese and Pâté; Coronavirus : les Français ont applaudi le personnel soignant à leurs fenêtres; Coronavirus : un apéro aux fenêtres pour « combattre » le confinement