Coronavirus pandemic: France

Masks off, Paris parties like Covid-19 never was

People dancing at the French midsummer Festival of Music at the Villemin garden in Paris on Sunday. But many who watched the crowds on the streets were horrified, taking to social media to voice fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections and cr
People dancing at the French midsummer Festival of Music at the Villemin garden in Paris on Sunday. But many who watched the crowds on the streets were horrified, taking to social media to voice fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections and criticising the authorities for being too lax.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Social distancing and face masks were largely forgotten as thousands of French people danced and partied well into the wee hours of yesterday in the first big blow-out since the Covid-19 lockdown.

The annual midsummer Festival of Music usually brings millions of people out onto the streets across the country for impromptu concerts in cafes and on street corners that go on long into the night.

And despite emergency measures which ban gatherings of more than 10 people, thousands thronged the trendy Canal Saint Martin and the Marais districts of Paris late on Sunday to dance and sing along to bands and DJs.

Not even heavy showers could dampen spirits, with few beyond those serving spicy merguez sausages from street stalls bothering to wear masks.

"The Festival of Music is important, it's a national event," 28-year-old reveller Violette said as she boogied to a band in northern Paris.

But many who watched the crowds on the streets were horrified, taking to social media to voice fears of a second wave of infections.

"What a brilliant idea! A Festival of Music just as we are coming out of a major health emergency," one Twitter user commented.

Although none of the usual big set-piece extravaganzas were held, many still felt the authorities had been too lax.

A senior doctor at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris, where many Covid-19 sufferers are still being treated, criticised the decision to let the festival go ahead.

"This is not what a gradual end to the lockdown looks like," said Dr Gilbert Deray. "I understand that the Festival of Music is something of a liberation, but did we really have to have it this year?"

Cinemas also reopened in France yesterday for the first time since the lockdown began in March.

 
 
 

The authorities have, however, insisted that screenings can never be more than half full, with a free seat on either side of each filmgoer. And everyone must wear masks as they queue for tickets and in the corridors.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2020, with the headline 'Masks off, Paris parties like Covid-19 never was'. Subscribe