Lockdown in Paris: Day 52

The western door of Père Lachaise Cemetery, which will reopen as part of de-confinement. (Yes, that’s an abandoned guitar in the doorway. There’s a story there for sure.) ©Lisa Anselmo

For Thoughtful Thursday, a few thoughts about de-confinement. On Monday here in France, we are supposed to be starting a gradual reopening, dependent on several factors, including sufficient testing kits for 700,000 people a week, availability of ICU beds, and accessible supplies of masks for the general population (which will be mandatory in certain places like public transport and schools set to reopen on a rolling schedule. Fines apply if you don’t comply). Non-essential shops, like salons, and certain venues like museums, will also be able to reopen if they can meet certain safety criteria.

The plan sounds swell to me, and we’ll hear more details today, but mayors across France are panicking, and have written an open letter to President Macron. They’re not ready to reopen, they complained, and feel forced to do so. Where are the tests promised? The masks? Is this more about the reopening the economy than public welfare?

It crossed my mind yesterday, when I spent an entire day searching for masks.* As someone with asthma, I knew I needed to be sure I had a mask going into de-confinement. Monoprix (a large chain like Target) had a supply on Monday that sold out same day. Several other stores and pharmacies were also sold out. Where were all the masks? Initially, they released 2 million masks in Paris and word is they will increase this, but we are a city of 10 million people (if you count the suburbs), and if you’re not supposed to reuse non-washable masks, and have a family of four, how would that work? It’s understandable that hospitals and those at risk should get priority, and I know it hasn’t been easy for France to acquire masks, but if we are reopening Monday, and we can’t get enough masks easily, are we reopening ourselves up to more infection?

But is it really a problem, as city mayors have suggested, or are we ready for this, as Prime Minister Philippe indicated in his “déconfinement” presentation?

It’s hard to know what’s true. In general, I have confidence in France’s handling of this pandemic compared to other countries. But I’ve come to discover that here, as anywhere, some politicians are politicizing the pandemic. It could be that Socialist mayors, like Paris’s Anne Hidalgo (a vocal rival of the president), are just pushing back on Macron and his party to make a point (and garner votes in the municipal elections). The Senate voted against reopening in a symbolic gesture (the National Assembly has the lead role in lawmaking), delivering a clear message: we are not on your side. PM Philippe spent a good deal of his last address chiding assembly members who did not vote in the last round. There were “too many abstentions,” he said. And called those who would politicize the pandemic “shameful.”

So, what’s the truth? Are politicians and lawmakers truly concerned that Macron, a notorious supporter of big business, along with his appointed right-leaning prime minister could be putting the economy first? Or is this just a political game?

It makes it hard for the average Jean or Jeanne to feel confident about the reopening planned for this coming Monday, if he or she can’t be sure leaders have pure motives. In fact, it’s hard for anyone in any country to put their trust in leadership if there is a sense that the pandemic is being using as a tool for votes, or to create greater control, or worst of all: to make money.

Who can we trust to lead us out of this mess? That’s the overwhelming theme I see on Facebook these days. The despair this lack of trust creates is only adding to the stress of this pandemic. What can you do?

Up to now, we’ve been living safely in our confinement bubbles, worrying only about ourselves and our families. And it’s given us a sense of control over something uncontrollable. But as we reopen our cities and countries, and open ourselves up to greater risk, we will need leadership more than ever. If you feel central government can’t be trusted, then look to local government. If they can’t get it together, it’s time to form community leadership. Start with your street if you have to. Tap into organizations that already exist in your town, and ban together to create your own safety protocols. Put pressure on government to do their job. Lead by example.

We have to live with this virus for a long time, and to do that, we will need to take charge where our leaders fall short. Reopening our cities and countries means reopening our world, looking outward to our neighbors, banning together and creating our own safe communities. This is not just government’s problem to solve, it’s each of ours. The way through this is not every man for himself; it’s one for all, all for one.


*Dear readers: Before you post a comment about fabric masks and mail order, don’t worry, I do know about that. Here’s a site from a friend of mine who makes masks using her photography of France. Her philosophy: if you have to wear them, they might as well be cute!


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On today’s bookshelf

Audiobook narrated by Yours Truly. E-book and hardcover also available. Click book to buy.


12 responses to “Lockdown in Paris: Day 52

  1. We have started opening up many places in phase 1 here in North Texas. Although many people are still cautious (not many out and about) but it was so nice to just get out and try to feel “normal.” Some stores still cannot meet the safety requirements so they have their reopening dates posted in their windows. There is definitely discrepancies across the board but We are ALL in this together we need to be kind, considerate and be respectful. Take care! Cannot wait to be able to visit Paris again – let me dream!

    • Do you feel Texas is ready to reopen? Technically you guys in the States are six weeks behind us in terms of reaching peak infection. I’m concerned about what’s happening back home. Please stay safe and continue follow as much of the CDC’s guidelines as possible. Stay safe and well!

      • I’m not concerned but I have friends in all different mindsets. We are a good hour away from Dallas where their numbers keep jumping. They have more restrictions and rightfully so. But here our numbers don’t seem to show any sort of upwards trend. I was out the past few days. At the Salon you have to wear a mask and wait outside until they call you in. They will not put any product in your hair. At the retail store they have you wait in line 6 feet apart until you are allowed to go in(25% capacity) we have a lot of outdoor BBQ places and it is very easy to eat outside with other people lots of space between tables. All in all pretty good for the first phase I think. Although we are not seeking to just go out. We had a outdoor patio (6’ part) get together- 4 of us and we each sat in our chairs and some brought their own food some of us shared takeout and we sat for hours. That part was so helpful to the soul! (Don’t judge) We will know on 5/18 whether the numbers change – good or bad. Which will be a telling sign to me on what we can or cannot do going forward. We are still doing what we need to do to be safe. Take care.🦋🙏

  2. Hi Lisa – here in Va, there’s a tentative reopening date of May 14. I think it’s too early. Numbers are still going up and Va is near the bottom in testing. I’m in my 8th week of teleworking and my office has said we’ll be teleworking at least until June 10th.
    I ordered some face masks from redbubble on Monday and it was fun picking them out.
    Bon courage with France’s reopening!

  3. We in California are opening tomorrow! In my opinion, that’s way too early…. but people are pushing for things to open. I for one won’t be the first one out. I’d like to go back to the hair salon to cover my grays…. but as of today I’ve ordered online some root concealer spray which will have to do!! Our Mayor said today that the virus in CA came from a nail salon. As for masks, I now have over 30 cloth ones ordered online from Amazon, Etsy, other sources.

    • Nail salons gross me out anyway. Too many horror stories about infections from them. It’s clear they’re not sterilizing anything. This news says a lot about the lack of hygiene in them in general—and the lack of government oversight, which needs to change. I was wondering if it was safer to go to my hair salon now just after lockdown than in two-three weeks after everyone has circulated. Now I don’t know.

  4. Here in the States, people are being shot over asking others to mask up. A security guard was killed because he asked a shopper to wear a mask. An idiotic woman shot two teenagers in MacDonald’s because the dining room wasn’t open and she wanted to eat-in, rather than take away. Idiots are calling for a boycott of Costco because they’re enforcing a mask policy.

    This kind of stuff is for everyone’s safety–employees and customers. But don’t impinge on mah freedumbs!

    I swear, this country is going to hell in a handbasket. But, hopefully, the handles have been wiped down with sanitizer first.

    • This comment made me both horrified (shooting, which I did not know about) and laugh (hand-basket handles). You’re a riot. I may have to quote you. The shootings and armed sieges of government buildings are mortifying. The wrong people are protesting. It’s especially disturbing when you know these acts have been incited by foreign powers and internal anti-democratic forces via bots and hackers. The invasion is real. It’s terrorism plain and simple. And no one is stopping it. There is no moral compass in DC (and I’m not just talking about the president. The greed is everywhere on both sides of the aisle). By the way, it’s not much better in Europe, believe me. We’ve just learned that Sarkozy dismantled France’s pandemic plan put in place over 10 years ago, which forced Macron to scramble. Plus, opening up for the economy with mask shortages. Does this sound any different from the US? The difference is I do feel the president and PM here are competent and doing a good job, albeit late. Their plan is very comprehensive and hopefully they will fix the mask problem. I hope.

      • I’m happy to be living in California, with a Governor who is firm about maintaining the lockdown and resisting pressure from the Trumpistas.

        Also, these people are being manipulated and used and they’re not smart enough to see it. They’re being astroturfed. It’s sad. They’re the tatters of every right-wing and fascist movement in this country–KKK, the Proud Boys, neo-Nazis, anti-government crazies, you name it.

        A significant percentage of the country does not want to reopen. Just because the stores have reopened (when they ever do) doesn’t mean there will be customers. Until there’s a treatment and a vaccine, I won’t be resuming my life as it was and I’m not alone. I have no desire to sacrifice my life in the name of the economy and Wall Street.

        I just hope we all can hold out until we can vote this criminal gang out of power in November.


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