By V4 Agency
Following the prime minister’s announcement of month-long restrictions, the mass exodus from the capital and surrounding region has begun, with many trying to travel to the countryside before the quarantine comes into force, but it is almost impossible to book a seat for most trains. The government’s decision is opposed by several public figures, who say measures will do more harm than good.
France is in complete state of frenzy since Prime Minister Jean Castex announced in a press conference on Thursday evening that 16 departements, including the capital and the Ile-de-France region around Paris, will be placed under quarantine for four weeks due to the deteriorating epidemiological situation.
The reaction is strikingly reminiscent of the response seen a year ago when the first quarantine was implemented: everyone who is able is trying to flee affected cities to the countryside before the lockdown. Western and south-western parts of the country are the most popular, with TGV trains to Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Biarritz filled to capacity. Many have reported on social media of the impossibility of purchasing tickets on these lines.
There are those who fear that the mass exodus of people from around the capital to the west will excellerate the spread of the virus there as well, which could lead to a nation-wide quarantine.
The French state railway SNCF has announced that intercity trains and international services will continue to run smoothly between the regions, despite the fact that inter-regional travel is banned in the country starting Saturday, with the exception of a few, explicitly authorised cases.
A BFMTV reporter checked in from Gare Montparnasse train station in Paris, where there were crowds of people trying to board trains with large suitcases. According to the railway information, the trains to Brittany were also full.
Railways are not the only form of travel to experience a sudden surge, Le Parisien reports that the price of flights to Corsica have also risen sharply. According to a local resident, a Paris-Bastia return-trip flight usually costs around 300 euros, but now a ticket is more than double that at 649 euros. When questioned by the press, an Air France official denied that they had intentionally raised the price, and explained that because only 40 per cent of flights are currently in operation, they must make every effort to sell all tickets. According to the airline, the last seats available, including those on the first flights the next day will therefore necessarily be sold at an elevated price.
Several opposition politicians and public figures have responded to Jean Castex’s announcement. National Rally leader Marine Le Pen believes the government delayed introduction of the quarantine for too long; incompetence, a slow and inconsistent vaccination campaign and the deteriorating situation in hospitals have led to much of the country being locked down starting Saturday. She added that the population will have to pay for the repeated failures of the government.
The renowned French essayist Eric Zemmour also reflected on events, maintaining that the government’s decision will have serious consequences. In Zemmour’s view, “you can see what the government is trying to save with the closure, but it is not yet apparent what the consequences will be.” In fact, the publicist believes they will not really be clear for years to come, and are certain to come at an exorbitant cost.