Packed commuter trains in which social distancing was ‘simply impossible’ began to operate in France again today as the country eased its coronavirus lockdown.
In scenes that will be watched closely in the UK, shocking images and videos posted on social media on Monday morning showed large numbers pouring on and off a train at the Gare du Nord in Paris.
‘Physical distancing is simply impossible,’ wrote one Twitter account holder called Maximilian who filmed the scene.
It was all part of a partial easing of lockdown restrictions that have been in place for the past 55 days.
In scenes that will be watched closely in the UK, shocking images and videos posted on social media on Monday morning showed large numbers pouring on and off a train at the Gare du Nord in Paris (pictured)
‘Physical distancing is simply impossible,’ wrote one Twitter account holder called Maximilian who filmed the scene on the Paris subway this morning
Packed commuter trains in which social distancing was ‘simply impossible’ began to operate in France again today as the country eased its coronavirus lockdown. Pictured is Saint-Lazare train station in Paris
France, whose official death toll is the world’s fifth highest, had enforced an eight-week lockdown, since March 17, to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, with residents only allowed out for essential shopping, work and exercise.
Shops and hair salons can now reopen, while people can venture out without a government-mandated form, except for trips of more than 100 km (62 miles), which are only allowed for professional reasons, funerals or caring for the sick.
Beyond commuter trains, the Gare du Nord is also the Eurostar hub in Paris, from which two high-speed trains were set to travel to London today.
All those travelling on French trains were required to wear masks from today or face a fine equivalent to £120.
Rush hour on the Paris transport system was restricted to commuters with proof that they were going to work or school.
All those travelling on French trains were required to wear masks from today or face a fine equivalent to £120. Pictured: Saint-Lazare train station in Paris
French hairdresser Marc Mauny tends to his first customer during the re-opening of Marc Creations hair salon at midnight in Mayenne, France
President Emmanuel Macron’s government decided to lift the lockdown after the number of patients in intensive care – a key measure of hospitals’ ability to cope with the epidemic – fell to less than half the peak of over 7,000 seen in early April.
Another encouraging indicator has been a prolonged decline in the number of daily deaths from coronavirus infections, which fell to 70 on Sunday, bringing the total to 26,380.
Parisians who fled to the country before the lockdown returned to the capital over the weekend after police lifted a ban on movement outside the home.
Commuters, wearing protective face masks, leave the Saint-Lazare train station in Paris, on the first day mask usage is mandatory on public transport
Only a third of the country approves of President Emmanuel Macron’s handling of the pandemic, according to an Ifop poll in the Parisien newspaper over the weekend and his popularity rating fell to 34 per cent in May, down five points from a month ago, according to a recent Elabe poll for Les Echos newspaper.
This is despite his government spending £105 billion paying 85 per cent of the income of 12 million furloughed employees, as well as propping up businesses such as Air France.
Opposition groups have criticised Mr Macron’s ministers for contradictory messages, especially on the subject of facemasks.
Commuters wearing face masks exit a train at the Saint Lazare station in Paris this morning as lockdown was eased in France
Traffic builds up on the A6 highway leading to Paris’ Port d’Orleans this morning as France began to ease its lockdown
Gérard Collomb, the Mayor of Lyon and Mr Macron’s former Interior Minister, said: ‘The government was caught unprepared. The back and forth advice on the mask question hit the government hard.’
Many people were keen head to the hair salon. ‘No hairdressers? I’d rather go without food,’ Danielle Gerard, a regular at a hair salon in the central Marais district in Paris told Reuters TV over the weekend.
However the government has urged caution, with some regions including the Paris area remaining ‘red zones’, and subject to additional restrictions. People across the nation are also still advised to work from home if they are able to do so.
Commuters wearing the compulsory face mask for public transport exit a train at the Saint Lazare station in Paris this morning
Police officers ask a man to put on his compulsory mask at the Saint Lazare train station in Paris this morning
Commuters wearing face masks are seen at a metro station in Paris, as the lockdown introduced two months ago to fight the spread of the Covid-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus starts to ease
A few sporadic clusters of infections have emerged in recent days, including one in Dordogne where at least nine people were diagnosed with COVID-19 following a funeral in late April, and another one in a central France secondary school where four people were infected.
Kindergarten and primary schools are allowed to open on a voluntary basis today, a day before 1.5 million out of a total 6.7 million primary school pupils will be able to return to classrooms on Tuesday.
Although France has managed to restrict the epidemic to a broad northeastern quarter of the country – including Paris – and its hospitals have been able to cope, the ongoing crisis will nonetheless leave long-lasting marks, as it will across the world.
The French, long accustomed to being told their high taxes paid for the best healthcare in the world, have been dismayed by the rationing of critical drugs, face masks and equipment. They have watched with envy as neighbouring Germany appears to have coped better with the coronavirus pandemic.