The government of France moved to implement what it called “the most restrictive measures in force today in Europe” in its battle against the COVID-19 new coronavirus pandemic that has killed 148 people and infected more than 6,600 in the country.
France deployed 100,000 police officers on Monday night to enforce a military-style quarantine across the country. Fixed checkpoints were being set up, where officers are to monitor the activities of citizens in each area.
The lockdown officially begins at noon on Tuesday and continues for a period of 15 days, according to Paris Match, which reported the quarantine is to be evaluated at the end of the period, “which could be extended.”
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner did not hesitate to speak bluntly about the need for measures of “firm restriction,” in an address on Monday, saying, “These are containment measures along the lines of what our Spanish or Italian neighbors have put in place. . . the most restrictive measures in force today in Europe.”
Citizens will be allowed out of their homes and able to go to their places of employment, he said, “when these trips are essential for activities which cannot be interrupted or arranged in the form of telecommuting.”
Travel will be allowed for shopping and “basic necessities like food and primary hygiene” and for “health reasons,” as well as for “compelling family reasons or for the assistance of vulnerable people, to help a dependent loved one, or for separated parents who would like to drop off their children.”
All of the above, however, will require an explanation to police at the local neighborhood checkpoint, along with a mandatory document one is required to download from the Interior Ministry website. It is also available at other public sites, according to the minister.
The document “attests on your honor the reason for your trip,” the minister said in his remarks. “Everyone must fill it out” and detail “the nature of their trip, destination and reasons” for traveling. Those who have no printer can reproduce the document by hand on plain paper, he said. Apparently the real point is the written documentation of one’s travels, legibility notwithstanding.
Violators will be fined, he added. Nevertheless, the quarantine will remain uniquely French. For example, as restrictive and stern as all of the above may seem, the minister’s next words dispelled much of the severity.
“Other exceptions may be allowed . . . We can always practice a physical activity or take out our dog. But everyone will have to do it sparingly, respecting health guidelines and barrier gestures, without being in a group.”
President Emmanuel Macron was more pointed in his own remarks: “We can get some fresh air, yes. But certainly not to play a soccer match. Picnics in the park are out. Tourist trips are out. And so forth . . . Stay home.”