Eerie quiet but no panic as rural France enters lockdown

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A week into coronavirus measures, shelves are full and physical distancing is taken seriously

One week into the national coronavirus confinement and parts of rural France are even more eerily quiet than usual.

The A6 Autoroute de Soleil that heads out of Paris to the south-east to join the A7 to the Mediterranean coast, normally a constant stream of traffic and frequently jammed in both directions, is now dotted with an irregular stream of lorries.

Tractors pull off the fields to hog the narrow roads and lanes because they are not expecting to meet any other traffic, forcing the occasional car to swerve; in the streets and shops and supermarkets people are body-swerving to avoid others.

But the demand for physical distance seems to have lessened the psychological space, and as people perform a little dance to put a few more centimetres between each other, many smile apologetically.

In the Yonne in northern Burgundy and neighbouring Loiret, locals are taking the stay home message seriously and have little time for the imbeciles in Paris or elsewhere who are not. At the nearby old peoples home, the 70 residents have been instructed to remain in their rooms since the general confinement was ordered last Tuesday.

In some seaside resorts and towns, Parisians with second homes have received a frosty welcome. In truth, they were often unpopular before the coronavirus except when spending their money on holiday, and sometimes even then. In the not so distant days when French car registration plates gave the department, those showing 75 for Paris were a particular target for local vandals, even more so than those with GB stickers.

Many villages in the northern Yonne have elderly populations, used to staying at home for reasons of age and ill health, so city cousins who can do the shopping and help out have been mainly welcomed. As long as they keep their distance.

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