March 29, 2020

Lockdown News 1: Germany and France

If you usually working and moving around the EU – like us – you may wonder what the current restrictions mean to you.

Market closed until further notice. Photo: Daniel
Market closed until further notice. Photo: Daniel

If you usually working and moving around the EU – like us – you may wonder what the current restrictions mean to you.

While we can’t give you information for the whole world (but see reddit), we can give you a feel of what the situation is for us (who usually move back and forth between Berlin and Paris).

How are things in Paris?

France is locked down. You may only leave your house – with a self-certification – for a an “important reason”, which includes:

  • Going to work (if you absolutely can’t telecommute)
  • Shopping for food and such
  • Medical reasons
  • A walk or (solo) sporting activity within 1km of your residence, for no more than one hour per day

The only stores still open are supermarkets, food stores and pharmacies. Those remain well stocked, except for face masks and hand sanitizer. Bread, pasta and toilet paper are available everywhere, although some bakeries have reduced their variety due to slow business.

Things that are not basic neccessities are only available via mail order – Amazon has already started to de-prioritize “non-essential” items and electronic chain FNAC currently takes two weeks for “standard delivery” packages.

Just before the lockdown, thousands of students and richer folks have left for their families or holiday homes in other parts of France. Right now domestic travel is halted for everyone without an important reasons. You can’t get on train (or travel in your car) without the proper (self-)certification.

What is the state of the pandemic?

Hospitals in Île-de-France (the greater Paris region) are currently near saturation.

Although the exponential growth seems to be halted and the drastic measures appear to show effects, the prime minister has already warned that the “first 15 days of April will be still be more difficult than the last two weeks”.

President Macron has declared war on the virus and, in addition to putting the country in emergency mode, mobilized the armed forces against the virus in “Operation Resilience” – which includes the deployment of military hospitals, planes and all of the navy’s amphibious assault ships to support the medical infrastructure.

How does the lockdown feel like?

Telecommuting is pretty much like normal, but although you can go outside for a walk you’re pretty much confined to your quarter. Despite the sunny weather, few people are out and about. All parks and public spaces are closed and the only way to spend your “outside time” is to shop or aimlessly roam the streets of Paris.

That said, market streets with greengrocers, food stores and bakeries almost seem like normal – if you discount the increasing number of people wearing face masks.

Most restaurants shut down completely, but some places stay open for takeaway and delivery; you can see a lot of delivery drivers congregating around the few places that keep their kitchens going.

Can you still travel?

No. We cold possibly go to Berlin - as we’re German citizens they would still let us in. However, most flights are suspended and a big portion of rail services as well. If you took a car you’d probably get held up in newly instated border checks.

Germany has closed the borders for foreigners, even EU citizens and harvest workers. Other countries have done the same, and so most of Europe is currently closed to us.

Any news from Berlin?

We’re in touch with Berlin through video calls - so far they don’t have imposed a strict quarantine, but you are not allowed to meet more than one person in public.

Public life in Germany is shut down as well, except for essential business. Our friends in Berlin report that getting toilet paper is still a challenge for some reason – Germans appear to take preparations for the zombie apocalypse very seriously, despite the fact that the country is still one of the least hit in terms of COVID-19 deaths.

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