“What did we talk about before coronavirus?”
“Brexit, I guess,” responded my British friend.
In a time like this, we can all appreciate some humor.
This morning, I went into an immediate panic upon reading the news about Trump’s new travel ban. As an EU resident, I thought I would not be able to get back to the U.S. What would happen if there were a family emergency and I couldn’t get home? During Trump’s announcement, my parents were trying to figure out if they could pay $3,000 to get me on a flight home today.
Turns out, as with many of Trump’s announcements, his speech evaded most of the essential details. As a US citizen I can still fly home to certain airports and with potential quarantine. Does this mean self-quarantine? Quarantine in a military base? What airports? Who knows.
Oddly, although there are cases of coronavirus in Ireland and the UK, people can travel from there. And Trump happens to own golf courses in both places. Coincidence? I think not.
As French President Emmanuel Macron just said in his address to the nation, “ce virus, il n’a pas un passeport.” (This virus, it does not have a passport).
Banning travel from the European Union will have no effect on the containment of COVID-19, since U.S. citizens can still travel as they please.
Paris is a weird place right now. Macron just announced the closure of all French schools, “jusqu’à nouvel ordre” (or until they decided to open them). Who knows how long that will be. I may be finishing grad school online.
People have been told to stop doing the bise (the classic French double cheek kiss greeting) and even shaking hands. Social environments feel colder, and even when we try to avoid talking about coronavirus, every conversation seems to circulate back to this virus and the current global crisis.
France’s government requisitioned all the surgical masks in the country to give to health care providers and people directly affected by coronavirus. Two days ago, my dentist told me that I was one of her last patients for a while because even she cannot get any masks.
Possible because of its proximity to Italy, coronavirus cases are rising exponentially in France. Italy’s outbreak coincided with the two-week vacation period for French schools, so many families traveled to the north of Italy to ski. And with open borders in the EU, there’s a lot of general travel between the two countries anyway.
Despite all of the new precautions, we are still currently in Stage 2 of prevention for coronavirus, which attempts to restrict the spreading of the disease. All gatherings of more than 1,000 people in enclosed spaces are canceled until further notice. This included the Paris semi-marathon that was scheduled for Sunday. The Paris marathon, originally planned for April 5, will now be in October.
The French government is still indicating that passing to Stage 3 is likely. This would place coronavirus at an epidemic status and might lead to temporary school closures across the country, as is happening in Italy at the moment.
As for me, I am lucky. I am young and strong, and getting coronavirus would simply be mildly annoying. As someone who values socializing and exercising outdoors above almost all else, the thought of being cooped up inside for two weeks is stressful in of itself, but I would survive, of course.
During a global pandemic, I am so, so happy that I live in a country that offers robust health care to its citizens, paid sick leave and time off, free coronavirus tests, and many other social services. The EU may not have a fully coordinated response, but France is light years ahead of the U.S.
At least for now, people still seem to be out and about in Paris. Biking and walking are still my preferred forms of transportation, but I’ll be avoiding public transit when I can (or at least not touching anything).
To conclude, I would just like to remind everyone to wash their hands well (though you should be doing this anyway) and to get as much sleep as possible. Leave the surgical masks for those who are already sick. Preventing the spread of coronavirus is great, but panic is not. And thank you to our medical providers, doctors, nurses and researchers. They are heroes.
It does feel a bit apocalyptic here, especially since the Seine is flooding and all the running and walking paths by the river are entirely submerged. Today, walking home, I saw a woman wearing a gas mask and sequined cowboy boots. Seemed very emblematic of the time.
I’ll end with another bit of humor and a vocab lesson from Felix, my German roommate. In German, the word for “panic buying” is “hamsterkauf,” which was inspired by the visual of a hamster stuffing its cheeks full of food. And everyone, please get outside and take some extra ski laps for me. Signing off for now, your Paris correspondent.