France, Emma Knopper
What’s the situation like in France in these times of corona? How do our Leiden alumni cope with the restrictive measures in their country, the possible finding of a vaccine, medication to combat corona or how do they cope with working from home, with or without children? Read the story of Emma Knopper, living in Paris.
Emma Knopper, Law, 2011
Currently Account Manager Corporate and Institutional Banking, Paris
March 17: complete silence in Paris
"On Tuesday March 17 I woke up in complete silence. Used to noise almost 24/7, it is strange to all of a sudden hear absolutely nothing. A look out of the window confirms what I already thought. The evening before, my neighbours left the city like thieves in the night. Almost 1,2 million Parisians escaped to family and their houses in the countryside. Afraid to be locked up for only God knows how long with their kids and pets in small apartments without garden and nowhere to go. I decided to go out for a walk with my dog Cacahuète and we both are highly disappointed as the gates of Parc Monceau appear to be closed.
Seine-Saint-Denis: something different in terms of poverty
President Macron declared the war against our invisible enemy and took his measures accordingly. The virus already stroke hard and relentless. Especially in the east of France and the region of Mulhouse, where a religious gathering later appeared to be the point of origin for the virus to spread.
Paris also suffers from high contamination levels and mayors of the adjacent department Seine-Saint-Denis, one of the poorest metropolitan departments of France, sound the alarm. It is impossible to make a comparison between this department and any other poor region in The Netherlands. Seine-Saint-Denis simply is something different in terms of poverty. Something else. And although in general the French are rightly proud of their well-developed and good functioning health care, the situation in terms of poverty and inequality within Seine-Saint-Denis is such, that an exceptional high mortality rate is unfortunately inevitable.
All Parisians turned into professional athletes
In order to make sure people only go out if they have a specific reason or destination, the government wants citizens to show at any time asked by the police a so called ‘attestation de déplacement dérogatoire’. In other words, if I go out for a walk with Cacahuète I need to declare that I will stay within a distance of 1 km from home and only for a period no longer than one hour. A week after the beginning of the lockdown, it suddenly seems all Parisians turned into professional athletes, training for the marathon. It is hard to stay inside all day and the lack of physical activity kicked in. I even saw people jogging wearing fluorescent tracksuits coming straight out of the 70s, fashion capital unworthy. The city of Paris also noticed the increase of joggers and decided to forbid running between 10AM and 7PM. This measure turned out badly: the density of people running per square kilometre before 10AM and after 7PM only became higher.
The economy has been slapped in the face for the third time in a row
In terms of economy France, like any other country, will be facing a period of uncertainty. During 2019 the so called ‘Gilets Jaunes’ marched weekend after weekend through the streets of Paris and other big cities. Often it came to violence between them and the police and so retailers were directly affected, being forced to close their doors. Tourists chose other European cities to go on citytrips and hotels saw a significant decrease in reservations.
Then, at the end of 2019 during more than two months, France experienced her longest railway strike in history, leaving the country completely paralyzed for weeks.
With the coronavirus, the economy has been slapped in the face for the third time in a row and hopefully once the lockdown left behind, France will revive.
Paris will always be Paris, but it takes time for the City of Lights to sparkle again."