Weekend lockdown in Paris would be ‘inhumane’, says mayor Hidalgo

Weekend lockdown in Paris would be 'inhumane', says mayor Hidalgo
Parisians flocked to the Seine riverbanks this weekends to enjoy the sun after weeks of cold and grey weather. A weekend confinement would put an end to this kind of activities. Photo Joel Saget/AFP
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Monday she opposed the government's proposal to impose a weekend lockdown in the French capital and its surrounding suburbs. Instead she demanded more vaccines to slow the rising Covid-19 numbers.

Hidalgo said she had expressed her “disagreement” when inquired about the proposal, which would place residents in the greater Paris region of Île-de-France under a strict lockdown every weekend as well as maintain the 6pm curfew throughout the week.

“It’s a proposal that I find difficult, hard, even inhumane,” the Socialist Party mayor said during a press conference. 

France has so far avoided a third national lockdown but, with Covid-19 case numbers starting to rise and intensive care units fill up, the government has begun imposing restrictions on a local basis.

The French Riviera around Nice and the northern coastal city of Dunkirk – two coronavirus hotspots – were placed under weekend lockdown last week.

Prime Minister Jean Castex last Thursday placed 20 new départements, including Paris and its suburbs, under “reinforced surveillance”, meaning they too could soon be placed under partial lockdown.

 “The health situation in our country has got worse,” Castex said, adding that the more rapidly-spreading variant that originated in the UK now accounted for almost half of infections in France.

The government has said they will decide before March 6th. The weekend lockdown is one of the options on the table, as this would mean people could continue travel to work as usual during the week, but prevent social gatherings over the weekends.

READ ALSO: What to expect this week for the 20 areas of France on ‘alert’ for new restrictions

Critics have slammed this option as too harsh, imposing the dreaded métro-boulout-dodo (metro-work-sleep) rhythm as a lifestyle and effectively removing the last slivers of freedoms enjoyed by the capital’s inhabitants.

“We know that those living in (certain) neighbourhoods have already paid a very heavy price due to the pandemic,” Hidalgo said, referring to densely populated and poverty-stricken suburb neighbourhoods in the département of Seine-Saint-Denis, which saw the country’s highest mortality rate during the first wave of the virus in the spring of 2020.

“We know that the best weapon we have against Covid is the vaccine,” she said, asking that that the government quadruple the number of vaccine doses given to the capital and its suburbs, with priority given to densely populated neighbourhoods and public officials such as police officers. 

Hidalgo also suggested that schools keep classes outdoors “as much as possible”, and offered to put the capital’s gardens and squares at the disposition of schools.

She said she would also offer to open museums, theatres and sports halls to give students extra space to study in peace.

She said her local government had decided against proposing a complete three-week lockdown, as previously suggested by Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire

Faced with criticism from both inhabitants and political opponents, Grégoire later to rowed back on his earlier remarks, saying they were “an idea and not a proposal”.

The whole of France has been on a 6pm to 6am curfew since mid January, and Macron said on Monday it would remain un place for “another four to six weeks”.

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