Paris, 18 March 2020 (dpa/MIA) — French police tightened checks on the country’s day-old coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday, as the military came to the aid of overstretched hospitals in the east of the country.
Police in Paris said that 10,000 checks had been carried out in the capital as of Wednesday morning, and 518 people had been fined for not respecting the rules.
Near the Eiffel Tower and in the densely-populated 10th district in east-central Paris, police were checking that drivers and pedestrians had a signed declaration that they were out of doors for one of the few permitted reasons, such as work and shopping for necessities.
In southern Paris, streets were quiet, with only a handful of passers-by to be seen at any one time.
But on one side-street in the working-class north-east, footpaths were still busy and there were no police in sight.
With infections and deaths continuing to rise—at 7,730 and 175 respectively across France as of Tuesday evening—the government upped the fine for breaching the lockdown from 38 to 135 euros (42 to 148 dollars).
Health Minister Olivier Veran told LCI television that he hoped the measures would lead to a visible decline in the rate of infections in “eight, 10 or 12 days.”
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Florence Parly said that a military flight had evacuated six intensive care patients from a hospital in the Alsace region, one of the hardest hit by the virus, to the south of France.
Troops were also preparing to deploy a field hospital in the Alsace city of Mulhouse, where an evangelical Christian gathering in February was at the origin of one of France‘s biggest outbreaks, Parly wrote on Twitter.
Veran said that some street markets, which are still allowed to sell food under the lockdown rules, could be ordered to shut after photos shared on social media showed crowding at some.
“I don’t think the French people understand that, and neither do the epidemiologists,” he said of the images.
Anywhere where “people are in close contact in the streets, whatever the reason, we will have to make decisions,” Veran said.
An opinion poll by survey firm Elabe for BFMTV television meanwhile showed widespread support for the lockdown, with 93 percent of respondents favorable.
The poll showed 81 percent of respondents were worried about the epidemic, sharply up from only 48 percent a week earlier.