PARIS: The streets and terraces of Paris and eight cities in France emptied on Saturday (Oct 17) night as people were asked to stay home to stem a second wave of COVID-19 that caused a record daily number of infections in the country.
French President Emmanuel Macron last week ordered nightly curfews in cities where the coronavirus was the most active, saying it was spreading at parties and private gatherings and action was needed or else hospitals risked being overwhelmed.
While some people understood the need to contain the virus, restaurant managers cautioned about the impact on a sector that already suffered major losses during the spring lockdown.
"There will surely be employees who will lose their jobs, several restaurants will go bankrupt," said Stefano Anselmo, 44, manager of Italian restaurant Bianco in Paris. "It's a disaster."
France, like other European countries, is grappling with how to slow the virus’ spread and ease pressure on a once-again strained healthcare system while keeping its €2.3 trillion (US$2.7 trillion) economy open and protecting jobs.
"For restaurateurs I understand that it is difficult but there is a moment when it is necessary to make a balance between public health and economic health," said Bastien Delaunay, a 22-year-old law student.
The number of new coronavirus infections in France jumped more than 32,000 in one day on Saturday for the first time since the start of the epidemic, health ministry data showed.
The total number of infections since the start of the year now stands at 867,197 while the total number of deaths stands at 33,392, up by 90 from Friday.
The 9pm to 6am curfews will last at least four weeks.
"On Saturday night we used to go out all the time. We organised many things and now that's over. At 9 pm we must go home. That's the time when we used to go out," 22-year old Jeanne Baudin, said while sitting on a terrace with friends.