Police officers check a pedestrian in Boulogne Billancourt, March 18, 2020.
Police officers stop a pedestrian in Boulogne-Billancourt, a western suburb of Paris, France, March 18, 2020.

PARIS - As lockdown becomes the new norm in Europe, people in France — the EU’s third largest economy — discuss their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic.

Busy avenues like the Champs Elysées are not buzzing these days in the French capital. Since Monday at noon local time, French citizens have been ordered to remain home and self-quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Many are teleworking and taking care of their children, since the schools are closed, too. 

This is the case for Isabelle Garcia, a lawyer with two toddlers. 

“The current situation is quite difficult. My husband and I are both teleworking, but (our) son’s school is closed. So is my daughter’s day care. We are waking up early while they’re still asleep. And when the children are awake, I work for an hour when my husband looks after them, and we rotate. It is quite tiring and hard work, but we are making the best of it and trying to do everything we can to get through it, I think, like anybody else,” she said.

The French government put the whole country in lockdown, but no curfew has been implemented. People must stay home as much as they can, but they can go outside to grocery shop, see a doctor, walk the dog, or if they cannot telework. Police can fine people up to $150 if they do not have a valid excuse to be outside. 

A man runs in front of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, March 18, 2020.

Philippe Offroy is a sales manager in Lyon, in east-central France. He had to leave Italy, where he was working in one of the main coronavirus clusters when troubles occurred. He is now stuck in his own country. 

He said that he has no dog or any animal to walk outside, so he has no valid excuse to go outside his house. Unlike Italy or Spain, the government does not ban all sports activities, as long as you are not in a group and stay close to your home. So, there is this option to breathe a little bit, said Offroy. 

Some, like Jonathan Peterschmitt, are seeing this lockdown as another quarantine. He tested positive with the coronavirus two weeks ago in Mulhouse Suburb, a town close to Germany. After two weeks of self-quarantine, he is undergoing another long waiting period at home.

 “I do not go outside now, because I am waiting to have zero symptoms to be sure I am not any threat to anybody. My wife and my kids are very well, but because we are experiencing another quarantine, we have to be extra careful not to meet anybody and stay away from other people.”

French authorities may extend the current lockdown after the initial first two weeks. 


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