Paris » A sunny spring afternoon in Paris. The intersection between Rue Poulet and Rue Dejean in the Montmartre district is quiet and peaceful. Only from time to time does a passerby come by, who is stopped by a group of police officers. Whether he has his passport with him, correctly filled in with name, place of residence, date and time? At most one hour and only within a radius of one kilometer, people in France can still go jogging, walking, walking the dog, shopping for the bare essentials. Those who do not follow the rules must pay a fine of 135 euros.

In the first two weeks of the curfew to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, almost 25,000 parking tickets were collected in Paris alone at more than 300,000 checks. Is it really still the Rue Poulet, in which there was hardly any getting through in the past? In which people crowded around the street vendors of grilled corn and chestnuts, where young men always stood in small groups and where black women in colorful dresses and with small children by the hand did their shopping?
Most of them came from the suburbs here in the north of Paris, because here they found products from their home countries: thick plantains, cassava roots, exotic peppers. With its lively market atmosphere and the confusing bustle, the area is considered “Africa in Paris”. At least in normal times. But they have been over since the house arrest came into effect on March 17. It remains dark behind the showcases of hairdressing salons specializing in straightening curly hair. Even in front of the “Barbes” metro station there are more police officers than illegal traders who otherwise control this place.

Free travel at the Bastille square

So when one of their liveliest places is abandoned, the whole city has fallen into a kind of sleeping beauty. The same picture can be seen in the Belleville nightlife district, on the Bastille square and even on the Concorde square, where car knots that seem always absurd during rush hour are now free to drive through. But almost no one drives through yet. Paris is hardly recognizable, its flair draws from its busy streets and cafe terraces, from which the chic Parisian women and men can be observed so wonderfully. The terrorists who shot visitors to bars and a concert hall on November 13, 2015, failed to rob the city of its joie de vivre and carefree nightlife. The coronavirus does – at least temporarily.

Traders are on the brink of ruin

All cafes, restaurants, and boutiques are closed. For their operators, the fear of the virus, which is spreading particularly rapidly in the capital region and is now pushing hospitals to the limit, is accompanied by fear of financial ruin. The government has promised the self-employed a billion-dollar rescue plan. But who benefits from what and when, seems insecure.
Republic Square is also swept empty. A single skateboarder does tricks. He is wearing a face mask. For months, the center of the Saturday protests of the resistance movement of the “yellow vests” was here. If it had to be, they would last forever, some of them assured them. Now they are at home too. At several corners of the square, homeless people sit between bags of their belongings. Otherwise, they go down in the crowd; now they stand out and show that Paris is a beautiful but tough city. In normal and especially in exceptional times.

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Muzaffar Ahmad Noori Bajwa
Editor in chief of The Eastern Herald. Studied Information Technology and Management. An OSINT Partisan & Political Analyst, Human Rights activist, and Social Activist.