Lockdown day 54 – Preparing for the end of lockdown

Mr “hot stuff” the prime minister of France has announced that the country will indeed officially come out of lockdown on the 11th of May. That’s this coming Monday. Of course this is good news because it means that we met the goal of not more than 3,000 new cases of coronavirus since last week. But we should be reminded that we cannot therefore go back to life-as-usual starting Monday – far from it!

The lists of cans and can’t dos is long (see government list below) but basically for us in Cotignac it means we can go out on as many walks as we want and can drive up to 100 km away without a permission slip signed. If you go over 100km you’ll need to sign and travel certificate meant for necessary means (like for work, health care related travel or caring for someone else etc). We can even host or attend private lunches/dinners but not with more than 10 people at a time. I’m not sure how they are going to enforce this but that is the rule. The latest news about beaches: The mobilisation of elected officials from the coast seems to have paid off. Generally speaking the beaches remain closed until June 1, but the Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, announced that from May 11, prefects will be able to authorise the opening of beaches after requests from mayors, subject to conditions. So this may take a little while longer but perhaps we’ll get to go to a beach and lake before June 1st afterall. However we need to keep in mind there’ll be no place to dine out at so one will need to pack a nice picnic and have some good parasols for shade. Oh, and don’t forget your masks.

Speaking of masks, the municipality started distributing masks today. Except they do not have enough for everybody so they decided to prioritise those on the voter register first. Which of course pissed off some Brits (almost 150 British citizens here used to be able to vote but due to Brexit were taken off this year) and other nationalities who reside here legally and permanently, work and pay their taxes etc. But this means people like me and children will need to wait until the next delivery (to be announced). This method of distributing first to registered voters is the easiest thing for the mairie to do, whilst keeping the opposition voters happy at the same time. I’m not going to say this was done as a political strategy but more out of convenience since that is the only database they can use in a hurry. It would have made more sense to me to give out masks to the needy and elderly first, but the mairie does not have a handy database for, say, 60-plus yrs old and up, to use off the bat, but I’ll bet this will be in the making for the next council (still waiting to be confirmed into service) and the bureaucrats will have their work cut out for them. But other towns are using less discriminatory methods to distribute masks (like simply asking people to prove they reside there with a utility bill) which is why the latest action has caused so much controversy.

The current crisis has been a major lesson learned for the government and municipalities who only had emergency measures laid out for 1) extreme weather conditions like drought, storms, floods, 2) forest fires or 3) potential terrorist attacks. Having worked as a councillor at the Cotignac mairie for over 6 years I can tell you we never once discussed the possibility of a “crise sanitaire” like a virus as something to fear and prepare for.

I’m looking forward to being able to go out of the house without having to draw up my permission slip each time. But I’ll be in no hurry to go anywhere that is crowded. Incidentally, we are due for a lot of rain on Monday so not exactly an auspicious start to “deconfinement.” Tuesday markets will be back, albeit toned down and limited to produce and food stands but shoppers and vendors will need to wear masks and keep a safe social distance from others. Since there will be no bars, caf├ęs or restaurants open however, I won’t be immediately tempted to skip down into the village to shop on Tuesdays. It’ll be a long time before we go back to living normally and greeting each other with kisses here. We just have to get used to this.

By the way, if you are looking for some stylish masks I found this on the net today. Some of them look great and are reasonably priced and can be ordered on-line. https://www.vogue.com/slideshow/stylish-face-masks-to-shop-now

Good luck and stay safe everyone!