Lockdown Day 36 – Update from France

It’s a dreary day here in Cotignac. It’s been raining pretty much non-stop since yesterday which, actually, makes staying indoors less of a pain. The earth needed it though as things were starting to look too dry here. Another plus: I’m sure that in a couple of days we will start to see the waterfalls look more full and dramatic again. That’s always nice.

Yesterday evening the prime minister of France, the dishy Edouard Philippe (he looks a little like Sean Connery in his 40s), together with the health minister Olivier Véran (also quite cute), and a disease expert/scientist presented a thorough update on the coronavirus situation in France and what to expect from May 11th. Mr Philippe made clear that things will not return to “normal life as we knew it before the lockdown” from May 11th but that schools will open back up again. However, they are looking into ways of assuring that students can practice social distancing by keeping the attending numbers down, the details for which they are currently working out in a plan. I think this means they will provide alternative attendance, like one week one half of the students, the next week the other half combined with on-line instruction and maybe even an option to keep kids at home where able. They also promised that testing for COVID-19 will be more vigorous and that masks will be made available for everyone. Restaurants will not be allowed to open on May 11th, the date for that is not yet clear. Obviously events that attract crowds and the public in close proximity will also not be allowed, which means that the second round of the Municipal elections may not be taking place before October of this year (a 6 month’s postponement from the original 22nd of March date). Overseas travel too, will be limited for a long time and boarders will continue to be controlled. So, it’s all still up in the air and no one will know for sure, even on the 11th of May, as to how tourism might look this Summer in France, a country where on any normal year 90 million tourists (more than the country’s population of 66 million!) visit and contribute greatly to the economy (10 per cent of GDP). We are only just starting to feel the pain of loss, making the government more anxious and worried, but I must admit they are doing a fantastic job of regular updating and being transparent in their motives. Mr Philippe also mentioned that the government has made available on-line psychologists (professional doctors) to talk to for anyone who feels they need it at this exceptionally uncertain time.

France is the most visited country in the world so the impact of travel restrictions will cause more loss here than in any other country. But people are generally protected (via Socialist measures) and will not go hungry or lose their shelters as a result (like we are seeing in the US). Even in Cotignac local associations and social workers are prepared to help anyone in need. The older more vulnerable residents are called up twice a week, by mairie staff and council members, to check on their health and well-being.

Recently in Cotignac more restaurants have started offering take-out service, something they didnt use to do, to keep their businesses going. Le Mas de Cotignac, Café du Cours, Restaurant du Cours and SOS pizza’s menus can now be checked on their facebook pages and ordered. Some are delivered others prefer you pick up from them. But of course the restaurants here make more profit on selling wine and alcohol to diners who normally sit on their terraces and enjoy people watching and the good weather. The village post office will reopen starting today at 1:30pm. This is good news for those of us who wish to continue working from home and need a close post office, like me.

So that’s all the news for today. Hope you are keeping well wherever you are.

Edouard Philippe
Olivier Véran
Rain in Cotignac
Rain on our apple blossoms