Paris streets empty as COVID-19 curfew takes effect

FILE PHOTO: A deserted Champs-Elysees avenue is seen near the Arc de Triomphe during the nightly curfew imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Paris, France, October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - Boutiques in the centre of the French capital shut early and shoppers hurried home to meet a new 8:00 p.m. curfew that took effect on Tuesday to try to prevent a new spike in COVID-19 infections.

“I completely lost track of time and didn’t realise it was so late,” said 40-year-old Paris resident Jun, who was in the Opera district just before curfew. “I’m going to head home.”

Around the usually bustling shopping district, shop fronts were dark and of the few people on the streets, most were heading towards the metro station.

Tuesday brought new freedoms for people in France because it was the end of a stay-at-home order. This had meant that, around the clock, people could only venture out for a limited time and for essential trips, to shop, or to exercise.

But that was replaced instead with a nightly curfew. From 8:00 p.m until 6:00 a.m. people can only go out for work, on official business, or for medical reasons. Anyone breaking curfew is liable for a 135 euro ($164) fine.

Officials have warned that they will be strictly enforcing the new rules. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Tuesday evening joined a police patrol in Yvelines, west of Paris, to check that people were complying.

“The government has decided to be particularly tough on unlawful parties,” the minister said.

Infection rates in France have declined sharply since the peak of the second wave last month. But scientists warn of the risk of a third wave of infection if people let down their guard during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Reporting by Yiming Woo, Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Richard Pullin