Déconfinement Day 1

May 11, 2020 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment

May 11, 2020. First day of déconfinement in France, and it’s raining in many parts of the country. Is Mother Nature saying, “Why don’t you all stay home one extra day, if you can, just for good measure?” Maybe.

Well, today is the day that France begins to progressively, and slowly open up again, after eight weeks of quarantine. With an emphasis on the word “slowly.”

Last Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and several members of his cabinet (including the ministers of health, education, labor, the interior, and the economy) unveiled the details of the plan to the nation on television, complete with colorful maps and charts that showed the current situation in various parts of the country. The prime minister explained that France is basically divided into two for this first stage of déconfinement. Most likely due to the very strict quarantine we’ve been under, much of the country is at this time, thankfully, relatively free of active circulation of the virus. This part (mostly the southern and western parts of the country) has been designated “green,” which means that the rules for this new period of gradual reopening (which will be in place until at least June 2) will be a bit less constrained than in the “red” parts of the country, mainly Ile de France (which is Paris and the surrounding area), and Le Grand Est, which is in the northeastern part of the country. (Essoyes is included in this “red” area.)

Throughout the country, whether in the red areas, or in the green ones, there are some universal rules that must be followed during this period of progressive reopening. Restaurants, cafes, and bars will not be reopened yet. People are now required to wear masks on all forms of public transport, and are encouraged to do so in other public places as well. (Masks are being distributed by town halls, free to the public, across the country for this purpose). Special permission is required in order to travel more than 100 kilometers away from one’s home. And France’s borders will continue to be closed to people coming in from non-EU countries.

We are also advised, as we begin to be socialize with each other again, that the safest way to do this is to remember to keep a safe distance from each other and follow all the other rules of safe conduct that we’ve been taught in the past eight weeks. For example, it was specifically advised on television last night, that it is better to have small social gatherings held outside for the time being.

As if Mother Nature herself wanted to emphasize the importance of all this, much of France woke up today to a very rainy day–a rain that is much needed, in fact.

To be honest, I haven’t yet figured out all the details of the stricter rules for the red zone. These things will be clarified and explained in the days to come. All I know for sure is that from now on I don’t have to carry an attestation de déplacement every time I venture outside of our yard, and now I can go much farther away from it than 1 kilometer.

But I also know that I am still advised to stay home as much as possible, and to continue to observe the gestes barrieres. (Wearing masks when in public; keeping 2 meters away from others; no handshaking! Much washing of hands…and so on…)

And to exercise common sense. So I will!

As I mentioned in my last post, Friday was a holiday: the national day of commemoration of V-E Day. The customary homage paid to those who paid the ultimate price to deliver France from Nazi occupation was observed here in Essoyes, but it was only the mayor and his adjoints who attended this time. However, the whole thing was filmed and shared live, so that those villagers who are accustomed to participating in this annual commemoration could do so, at least vicariously, this year too. And so, as the mayor and his adjoints began the ceremony at the war memorial next to the church, then proceeded to three different sites in the village to lay flowers to honor those who had helped to win back France’s freedom, a dedicated and intrepid local videographer filmed the whole thing. I watched the whole thing too, and was happy to be able to do so.

The mayor and his deputies all wore masks, providing the public with a reminder of how important mask-wearing will be in keeping the virus from spreading going forward. I noticed that at the end of the reading of the official proclamation that it is always read on this day, the final words spoken were Vive la République; Vive la France…et Emmanuel Macron. I was a bit surprised to hear the president’s name added to this list: I don’t think I have ever heard that before.

But, well. He’s got a hard job, and I think he’s been doing a pretty good job at it. And so–at least to me–it seems perfectly appropriate to include his name this year. He needs the support and the good wishes of the public. We’re all in this together, but he’s got a heavier weight on his shoulders than most people.

Although middle schools, high schools, and universities remain closed, and will be continuing remote instruction, the elementary school in Essoyes was to open its doors again today. In yet another kind and spontaneous gesture, a young woman who grew up in Essoyes and now lives in nearby Troyes took it upon herself to sew masks for every single one of the returning children. And she asked to remain anonymous. I find this kind of selfless generosity very moving indeed.

It is, I believe, a very good example of what is meant by solidarité.

And so, that is my report for this week. Stay well everyone: and if you are venturing out into the world, wherever you are, remember all we’ve learned about this nasty virus during these eight weeks, and prenez soin de vous.

Courage! et bonne continuation…

Photo by Janet Hulstrand.


Janet Hulstrand
 is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “
A Long Way from Iowa.”

Entry filed under: About France, About Quarantine 2020. Tags: , .

Lockdown in Essoyes: Day 49 Déconfinement Day 8

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