Paris cafes to shut on 2nd virus wave

France reported nearly 17,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday alone

PARIS • A second wave of the coronavirus in Europe has forced Paris to shutter its iconic cafes on Monday as the US presidential race was in disarray after President Donald Trump checked himself out of hospital after Covid-19 treatment.

France reported nearly 17,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday alone, the highest daily number since the country began widespread testing.

Monday’s shuttering of bars and cafes — seen by many as the essence of Parisian life — were “braking measures because the epidemic is moving too fast”, Paris police chief Didier Lallemant told journalists, adding that restaurants will remain open provided they respect new safety measures.

These will include providing sanitising hand gel, limiting patrons to six a table with at least a meter (about a yard) between seats, and allowing diners to remove their masks only for eating.

“It’s not going to work for small restaurants,” said the owner of a tiny Paris eatery that also operates as a cafe and a bar — depending on the time of day — as well as a tobacconist.

“Everybody is going to crunch numbers: Is it worth staying open or not?” the owner, who gave his name only as Michel, told AFP.

Trump, on the other hand, seemed unfazed by the virus when he checked out of hospital after four days of emergency treatment for Covid-19, pulling off his mask the moment he reached the White House.

Before he left the Walter Reed military hospital, he tweeted that he would “be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!!”

He also told his supporters, “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” claiming to be feeling rejuvenated after his illness. With the Republican’s tough election campaign in its final month, he and his advisors have sought to project a sense of continuity.

But the coronavirus has continued to ravage the US: New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that schools would temporarily close in nine neighbourhoods experiencing an uptick in Covid-19 infections.

The areas include large Orthodox Jewish communities, who recently marked the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays.

Meanwhile, two prominent Europeans announced on Monday they were going into self-quarantine after coming into contact with individuals who have tested positive for the virus.

Ursula von der Leyen, the 62-year-old head of the Euro-pean Commission, said she would self- isolate for a day.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister

Linas Linkevicius, 59, also started a week of self-isolation after meeting with a Covid-positive French embassy staffer during a visit by President Emmanuel Macron.

Linkevicius himself has tested negative for the virus, Foreign Ministry Rasa Jakilaitiene told AFP.

Europe, which has recorded 235,553 death (at press time), is approaching a caseload of six million out of the more than 35.2 million cases officially diagnosed across the world.

That figure, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday, is a fraction of the likely actual count, which the United Nations health body estimated at one in 10 of the world’s 7.8 billion people.

“Our current best estimate tells us that about 10% of the global population may have been infected by this virus,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said.

The virus has killed at least 1,037,971 people (at press time) worldwide, according to the latest AFP tally based on official sources. — AFP