All of France will become subject to a curfew from 6pm to 6am for at least 15 days from Saturday in a bid to curb COVID-19.
The measure “has proven to be effective,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex said.
An 8pm curfew has been in place in the country since December 15, and has already been extended to 6pm in some of the worst-hit areas.
The French government decided on an extended curfew to “avoid harsher measures” to stem the spread of coronavirus, Mr Castex added.
However, “if we were to see a strong deterioration of the health situation in the coming days, we would decide on a new lockdown without any delay,” he warned.
The premier said that recent measures had been successful and that recent holiday celebrations had not led to an “epidemic flare-up”.
French residents will only be allowed outdoors after 6pm for professional or urgent reasons and will need to show a certificate providing such a reason.
The curfew effects has already been felt in parts of regional France.
Labourers stop pruning the vines as the light fades at about 4.30pm, leaving them 90 minutes to come in from the cold, change out of their work clothes, hop in their cars and zoom home before a 6pm coronavirus curfew.
Forget about any after-work socialising with friends, after-school clubs for children or doing any evening shopping beyond quick trips for essentials.
Police on patrol demand valid reasons from people seen out and about.
For those without them, the threat of mounting fines for curfew-breakers is increasingly making life outside of the weekends all work and no play.
“At 6pm, life stops,” Champagne producer Alexandre Prat said.
Big chunks of eastern France, including most of its regions that border Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, face 6pm to 6am restrictions on movement.
The rest of France could quickly follow suit, losing two extra hours of liberty that have been just enough for residents to maintain bare-bones social lives.
Until a couple of weeks ago, the nightly curfew didn’t kick in until 8pm in Prat’s region, the Marne.
Customers still stopped to buy bottles of his family’s bubbly wines on their way home, he said. But when the cut-off time was advanced to 6pm to slow viral infections, the drinkers disappeared.
“Now we have no one,” Mr Prat said.
The village where retiree Jerome Brunault lives alone in the Burgundy wine region is also in one of the 6pm curfew zones.
The 67-year-old says his solitude weighs more heavily without the opportunity for early evening drinks, nibbles and chats with friends, the so-called “apero” get-togethers so beloved by the French that were hurried but still feasible when curfew started two hours later.
“With the 6pm curfew, we cannot go to see friends for a drink anymore,” Mr Brunault said.
“I now spend my days not talking to anyone except for the baker and some people by phone.”
Prime Minister Jean Castex could announce a curfew extension on Thursday evening, as well as other restrictions, to fight the virus in a country that has seen over 69,000 confirmed virus deaths.
An earlier curfew combats virus transmission “precisely because it serves to limit social interactions that people can have at the end of the day, for example in private homes,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.
In France, critics of the 6pm curfew say the earlier time actually crams people together more after work, when they pile onto public transportation, clog roads and shop for groceries in a narrow rush-hour window before they must be home.
Women’s rugby coach Felicie Guinot says negotiating rush-hour traffic in Marseille has become a nightmare.
The city in southern France is among the places where the more contagious virus variant has started to flare.
“It’s a scramble so everyone can be home by 6pm,” Ms Guinot said.
In historic Besançon, the fortressed city that was the hometown of “Les Misérables” author Victor Hugo, music store owner Jean-Charles Valley says the 6pm deadline means people no longer drop by after work to play with the guitars and other instruments that he sells.
Instead, they rush home.
“People are completely demoralised,” Mr Valley said.
In Dijon, the French city known for its pungent mustard, working mother of two Celine Bourdin says her life has narrowed to “dropping kids at school and going to work, then going back home, helping kids with homework and preparing dinner.”
But even that cycle is better than a repeat of France’s lockdown at the start of the pandemic, when schools also closed, Ms Bourdin says.
“If my children don’t go to school, it means I cannot work anymore,” she said.
“It was terribly difficult to be all stuck almost 24 hours a day in the house.”
COVID-19 curfews in the rest of Europe
Overnight curfews have become the norm in swaths of Europe but the 6pm to 6am curfew in 25 regions of eastern France is the most restrictive anywhere in the European Union’s 27 nations.
Others countries’ curfews all start later and often finish earlier.
The curfew in Italy runs from 10pm to 5am, as does the Friday night to Sunday morning curfew in Latvia.
Regions of Belgium that speak French have a 10pm to 6am curfew while in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking region, the hours are midnight to 5am.
People out between 8pm and 5am in Hungary must be able to show police written proof from their employers that they are either working or commuting.
There are no curfews in Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Sweden, Poland or the Netherlands, although the Dutch government is thinking about whether imposing a curfew would slow new COVID-19 cases.
Source: 9News | World News