As the US deals with increasing infection rates, I thought it might be helpful and perhaps a little comforting to offer a little perspective from Paris.
To recap quickly, the pandemic spread to France from northern Italy and Switzerland in January and February of this year. On March 17, 2019, the country was locked down, with only essential businesses open, and only essential travel taking place domestically or internationally. In summary, everything came to a standstill as the healthcare system here fought to get control of the disease.
A phased reopening from the confinement began on May 11, and as of today, the country–and especially the city of Paris–are far from returning to ‘normal’. The borders of EU members states have only recently reopened, but tourists have hardly flooded in: people need money to travel, and the economic shock is still being felt by most people. Add to that that the EU is prohibiting citizens from numerous countries from entering, and you have a very slow thaw in terms of economic activity here.
Bars and restaurants are open, but many Parisians are opting for a table outside, prompting cafes to take over parking spaces and sidewalks to accommodate them. (You’re 19 times less likely to contract Covid-19 outside among people than inside among people.) Masks are required on public transportation and inside stores and offices. Working from home is still happening when possible. Thankfully, schools are closed for summer.
On the personal front, my wife and I have turned down invitations to social events, and will probably continue to do so until 2021. Why? Because as France’s restrictions have eased, infection rates here have ticked up. And everyone is watching this very, very carefully.
The vigilance of the French government and refined medical protocols developed by French doctors mean we probably won’t see another shutdown of the city or the country, but no one is taking any chances. Especially not the citizens. As I’ve said before, the French appear nonchalant but are generally very aware.
Contrast that with the Americans who I hear so often, saying they’re ‘so tired’ of the pandemic and ‘so over’ this whole coronavirus thing. That’s understandable, but the virus doesn’t care how you feel about it. If you don’t take precautions, it will ambush you, infect you, make you sick and maybe even kill you. And it might do that even if you are careful.
You’ve probably heard all this before. If you have, and you understand it and act accordingly, great. Pass this blog post on to less enlightened members of your circle. If you’re still being casual about the whole thing, reconsider.
And, as you go through this dark, depressing period, hold steady and have faith, but know this: it is going to be a very long time before this is over. Health wise: 2 years. Economically: 5 years. Best to accept the situation for what it is (i.e., something you can’t control), take every precaution you can (something you can control), and settle in for the long haul.
Avoid hysteria, conspiracy theories, and political rhetoric. Be a little French: shrug at all that dismissively, and take care of the business at hand.