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Paris Among Eight French Cities Under Curfew As Coronavirus Cases Rise In France


Paris will be under curfew tonight, along with several other cities in France, as part of the government's attempts to try to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus there while trying to avoid another nationwide lockdown that's damaging effect on the economy. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley joins us from Paris. Eleanor, thanks for being with us.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: It's good to be with you.

SIMON: And tell us about this curfew. People just simply are forbidden from leaving their homes?

BEARDSLEY: That's correct. Starting tonight at 9 p.m., you've got to be home until 6 a.m. the next day. Twenty million people will be affected by these curfews. They're also in other big towns like Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Toulouse for four and possibly six more weeks. You know, authorities are desperate to stop the spread of this virus, and they say it's been happening mostly at night, when people let their guard down. So they're targeting young partiers. It seems extreme, but it's to avoid a more extreme method that would be a nationwide lockdown.

SIMON: And remind us of the circumstances the government was looking at that led them to mandate this.

BEARDSLEY: Well, Scott, the spread of the virus - it's exploding. We had 30,000 cases in the last 24 hours. That's double from two weeks ago. The rate is now 278 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. It's tripled in the age-65-and-over group. And the head of Paris' hospital system says intensive care units are going to be full of COVID patients by next week.

SIMON: As I don't have to tell you, Eleanor, people in Paris don't like to be cooped up. How are the French people receiving this?

BEARDSLEY: Well, actually, two-thirds of the French support these measures. And they are drastic, but people support it. I was out last night talking to some young women at a cafe, maybe one of their last times out having drinks. And Alexandrine Vigae (ph) and Lauren Galludac (ph) told me how they feel about it. Here they are.

ALEXANDRINE VIGAE: I'm 23. I'm about to be 24. And I feel like it's happening at a time where now I have to get my life together...

LAUREN GALLUDAC: Very forcefully.

VIGAE: ...Very forcefully. So it's really interesting because I feel like I would have to gradually do this process anyway. But now it's, like, really, really fast. So it's kind of sad, but I guess it's OK. I would do it because it's a pandemic. So I guess we have to.

GALLUDAC: I think it's frustrating because it's lasting a very long time. But I realize that it's necessary and we all need to make an effort to make a difference.

SIMON: And, Eleanor, tell us what's happening in the rest of Europe, please.

BEARDSLEY: Well, in Britain, the virus is also spreading very rapidly. And the highest rates, again, are among older teenagers and young adults. Starting today, households in London can no longer mix. And in Northern Ireland, they're shutting pubs and restaurants for the next four weeks. In Spain, the capital of Madrid is under a state of emergency and confinement, along with nine other municipalities. And in Germany it's rising fast, though it is slower than elsewhere. Still, Angela Merkel, chancellor, is worried, and she's gotten Germany's 16 governors to agree to tighter measures if it does reach a certain point.

SIMON: How does Europe feel today as opposed to just a few weeks ago?

BEARDSLEY: Well, Scott, I can tell you from this summer, it's like night and day. This summer, you know, Europeans had taken their precautions. They wore their masks. They did their confining. And people were on vacation while, you know, the U.S. was still a mess. Everything has changed now. It feels like this vise is tightening its grip, and everything feels confining and, I have to say, quite grim.

SIMON: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, thanks so much.

BEARDSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.