Europe

Fatigue Outpaces Progress as France Enters Yet Another Lockdown

With coronavirus infections soaring, deaths nearing 100,000, and the vaccine rollout sputtering, frustrated French feel they are right back where they started.

By Norimitsu Onishi and Constant Méheut

PARIS — At the Montparnasse train station in Paris, the contrast couldn’t have been sharper.

About a year ago, faced with the first national lockdown against a raging coronavirus epidemic, Parisians desperately jammed into trains in an exodus that turned Montparnasse into a place of fear and anxiety, and the capital into a ghost town.

But on Friday morning, a day before the start of the third national lockdown, foot traffic was relatively light inside Montparnasse station and others in Paris. The mood was one of deep fatigue ahead of restrictions that, once again, will severely limit travel across France, confine people’s movements in their communities and shut down schools.

“There is a bit of weariness,” said Muriel Sallandre, who was catching a train to visit her parents in western France but was planning to return to Paris in a few days. “The absence of perspective, being dependent on the government’s messages — all that is ultimately a little depressing.”

Many French rushed to buy train tickets immediately after the announcement of a new lockdown on Wednesday evening. So the capital’s stations will likely get more crowded over the weekend, as travelers planning to spend the latest lockdown outside Paris mix with those traveling to visit relatives for Easter. Some Parisians also left the capital after restrictions were imposed in the capital region a couple of weeks ago.

But nothing like last year’s exodus was expected as panic has mostly given way to resignation. Even though President Emmanuel Macron pledged that this would be France’s last national lockdown before life returns to normal, there was no clear light at the end of the tunnel: infections are soaring as France’s total deaths from the epidemic nears 100,000, and, like in the rest of the European Union, progress on the vaccination campaign remains painfully slow.

“The way things are going, I feel that, in a month, we will be put under an even stricter lockdown,” said Marie-Yvonne Bougrel, 53, adding she did not “feel that the measures implemented are really effective.”

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