The renaissance of the French coffee society has taken cautious first steps in the hope of a gradual economic recovery but also of apprehension about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the risk of a second wave.
In Paris, on the French Riviera and throughout the country, people took advantage of the warm weather and the relaxation of restrictions for dining or having a drink on the terraces on Tuesday for the first time since President Emmanuel Macron , ordered a lock-up in mid-March.
Only outside seating is allowed in the Paris region and restaurant owners and bar owners must have tables wide enough to meet the rule of the meter. If the distance between the tables cannot be maintained, separation screens are installed. Other countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, recommend two meters as a safety distance.
Outside the capital, with variations from one city to another, owners are encouraged to use the outdoor space as much as possible, with greater flexibility allowed on the use of sidewalks and new speed limits to minimize the danger of traffic passing closer to customer tables.
Even then, as you could see at Gecko, a café in the La Côte d´Azur resort of Lavandou, the label after the lockout poses challenges for staff and the public. Live music resumed at the bar on Tuesday evening with distances maintained between tables, available gel dispensers and bar staff wearing masks.
“It was good to take these small steps towards normalcy,” said musician Jean-Louis Witas. “But it was strange. It was clearly difficult to keep people from going less than a meter apart. Live music depends on a friendly atmosphere. I only played the guitar but what happens when I sing? An infected singer could transmit the virus orally to people in the audience. And then there are people who pass near the stage. “
In Paris, despite the absence of foreign tourists – whose return should begin from June 15 – many terraces were filled to the third or half Tuesday evening, although increased attention was paid in the capital to the surges of riots during otherwise peaceful protests against racism.
Although the trigger for the protests was the case of George Floyd, the black American who died after being arrested by police in Minneapolis, many demonstrators spoke of the case of Adam Traore, a young Franco-Malian who died in police custody after being detained four years ago, the Parisian suburb of Beaumont-sur-Oise.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said this week that the rate of spread of the virus is currently “under control”, putting France on the path to normalcy by the end of this month. But health experts warn that Covid-19 “remains active” and with 29,000 coronavirus deaths recorded, making France the fifth most affected country after the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy and the Brazil, the risk of a second wave cannot be ignored.
Many restaurateurs have chosen not to reopen, citing concerns about the profitability or a resurgence of the virus. With the sun giving way to precipitation, the Parisian owners are also worried about the effects of the weather on the terrace business only.
But while it will take time for businesses to return to their pre-crisis level and for foreigners to return to one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, the appetite to resume life as before is strong. The France 24 television channel reported a queue of a hundred people in the city of Nantes, in the west of the country, while the Bouffay prison restaurant reopened on Monday morning at midnight.
In other measures to relax the locking rules, rail services are resumed, the second Paris airport, Orly, hopes to be opened again on June 26, museums and monuments accept visitors subject to restrictions and the limit of 100 kilometers on the journey from home has been lifted.
But as Macron prepares to announce details of how France will handle the recovery from the crisis, it is widely believed that life changed during the pandemic, with even mundane tasks becoming a source of anxiety.
“My reluctance to shop at the supermarket has grown stronger,” said Louise Manfield, a Briton living in the southwest city of Carcassonne. “I only have to go inside to feel unable to suppress a cough that makes people look at me like I have the plague. And maybe I have it! “
Updated: June 4, 2020 4:24 p.m.