Thousands of people left Paris on Thursday, just hours before France went into its second nationwide lockdown, clogging the city with massive traffic jams as many sought to be confined in the countryside and less crowded areas.
Incredible traffic jam in Paris as people try to leave the city before 9 pm curfew and before confinement begins at midnight. Traffic is barely moving in every direction as far as the eye can see. Lots of honking and frustrated drivers. pic.twitter.com/6Zn2HCxuPl
— Michael E. Webber (@MichaelEWebber) October 29, 2020
Lines of cars stretched across hundreds of miles in the city and on the Boulevard Périphérique, the multilane ring road that circles around Paris, in scenes reminiscent of an exodus in the spring, when France imposed its first lockdown.
In March, 1.2 million people left the Paris area, nearly a fifth of its population. In some areas, the massive exodus by affluent city dwellers who decamped to their second homes helped spread the coronavirus to regions that at that point had been spared by the pandemic.
This time, the virus is spreading fast throughout the country, according to authorities. France has recorded an average of 40,000 new cases a day over the past week, one of the highest levels in the world. More than 2,500 new patients have been hospitalized daily in the past several days, the highest numbers since mid-April.
The new restrictions, which went into effect on Friday, require people to stay at home except for essential work or medical reasons. Restaurants and businesses are closed, but schools remain open.
President Emmanuel Macron predicted earlier this week that the second wave of the virus would be more deadly than the first.
“I know the weariness and this feeling of a day with no end that is overcoming all of us,” Mr. Macron said as he announced the second lockdown on Wednesday. “This period is hard precisely because it is testing our resilience and our unity.”
Elsewhere in Paris this week, one of the world’s most iconic bookshops, Shakespeare & Company, said that sales were down almost 80 percent since March. “Like many independent businesses, we are struggling, trying to see a way forward during this time when we’ve been operating at a loss,” the bookshop wrote in its newsletter. The first iteration of the Parisian institution opened in 1919.
On Thursday, the organization that hands out the Goncourt Prize, France’s most prestigious literary award, announced that it will be postponed, in solidarity with bookstores closed by the virus rules. Goncourt winners are automatic best-sellers, and the organization said it didn’t want e-commerce platforms like Amazon to be the sole beneficiaries of the windfall.
François Busnel, a famous literary critic who hosts a widely-watched television show, has launched a petition asking authorities to let bookstores reopen, and several prominent politicians, including Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, and former President François Hollande support the move.
Here are some other developments from Europe:
Ahead of a long holiday weekend, several cities and regions around Spain announced new restrictions on Friday, including the northwestern region of Galicia, where the authorities banned all city residents from traveling during the three-day vacation. In northeastern Catalonia, residents will have to stay within their municipalities not only this coming weekend, but also during the following ones. On Thursday, Parliament approved maintaining the country’s state of emergency until May, although the government is delegating to regional authorities many key decisions on new restrictions.
A small drop in reports of new daily infections in Finland over the last two weeks has raised the country’s hopes that it may be spared the upward trajectory of cases in many other European nations. The number of infections per 100,000 people over the past 14 days is 45.2, down from 52.9 over the previous 14 days, according to official data. On Thursday, Dr. Mika Salminen, the country’s director of health security said that the peak had passed, but that, “Naturally, we can’t be assured that the situation will prevail.” Indeed, as a reminder of both the volatility of virus trends and the uncertainty of a single day’s data, Finland reported its highest number of daily infections to date — 344 — on Friday.
Belgium will impose a six-week federal lockdown, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced on Friday. All nonessential businesses will close starting Sunday, though some shops may offer curbside service. Social contacts outside households must be limited to one person — with an exception of those living alone, who can see two people, but not at the same time. Traveling abroad is discouraged, but not forbidden. The sole purpose of the measures, Mr. de Croo said, is “to ensure that our health care system does not collapse.” The country, which has 11 million residents, has been averaging more than 14,000 new cases per day and has recorded the one of the highest per capita rates in the world for the last seven days.