Guess what? Last night, the French President officially announced a national Covid-19 lockdown for the second time, starting from Friday, 30 October. French Lockdown, Season II.
In the past five months since the gradual lifting of first national lockdown, the French government has reiterated that the country cannot afford another national lockdown as the first one almost brought the French economy to its knees. The government has been pulling all stops to stall the spiralling rise of new Covid-19 cases, especially since l’entrée scolaire, the start of the school year in September. Only just two weeks ago, on 17 October, a curfew was imposed in 8 metropolises. Exactly a week ago, the curfew which runs from 9pm to 6am, was extended to 54 of the 101 French departments. A department is an administrative division of France. In terms of population distribution, close to two-thirds of the population have been affected.
However, the last desperate measures to curb the new cases are in vain. In the last few days, we have seen the relentless surge in new confirmed cases, patients in intensive care units and deaths. According to the French government, the second wave of Covid-19 is expected. However, the speed at which the virus spread has exceeded even the most pessimistic forecast. Consequently, President Macron has to declare a national lockdown for the second time.
The second round would last for at least four weeks, until the beginning of December, but it would be less restrictive than the one in spring. Like the first round, only businesses that are deemed essential to the daily lives (supermarkets, tobacco shops – imagine! pharmacies, opticians, bakeries) can stay open and everyone is strongly encouraged to work from home, whenever it is possible. Similarly, all university classes and tertiary education will be conducted online.
What’s new, is that factories, public works, public services such as the post offices, and sectors like agriculture and construction are allowed to continue operating. In addition, all other schools, from nurseries to secondary schools, will remain open. Parks and gardens will remain open too.
The last one is a piece of good news for Silviu and I. It means that we can run in the local woods that is just 5 min away. On the other hand, we are constrained to one hour of outdoor time per day and we have to be within 1 km from home. It’s a legacy from the first round of lockdown. Likewise, we must have with us, at all times, a copy of the permission form when we leave our home.
I can count the number of times I ran during the first lockdown with just one hand. When I did run, I just ran 1km, back and forth on the main street in front of my apartment. To do a 10km run, I had to run 5 times back and forth on the same stretch of bitumen. One has to admit that it is not the most enjoyable activity to undertake. Despite my regular indoor bike training during the 8 weeks of lockdown, my running speed and endurance took a hit and I gained close 2kg. The slide in physical fitness was not helped by the two months of relatively sedentary summer vacation (apart from the micro-trekking trips we did in the Alps).
Getting back to running with the Orsay running club in September was arduous. The first month was extremely discouraging as I found myself chasing runners who were slower than me the year before. The experience was not made better with the reappearance of my old problem, plantar fasciitis. Plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot. When it gets inflamed, it causes come-and-go stabbing heel pain.
To get back to shape, I have taken a three-pronged approach. Firstly, I visited a podiatrist who customised a pair of soles for me. Secondly, I restarted using kinesiology tape (I used to tape my heels in Hong Kong). Lastly, I kickstarted leg strengthening exercises. I am not sure whether it’s any of these three new approaches I have taken or it’s all in my mind, I seem to have made some progress in terms of fitness. A more concrete result, however, is that I have eventually lost the weight that I gained.
Will the second lockdown see my efforts for the last two months go down the drain? It takes a really motivated person to make oneself run five times up and down the same stretch of road. Or, I can be creative by finding different 1km routes that I can take in my neighbourhood. Since we are allowed to run in the woods this time, the greenery will definitely alleviate a teensy bit of the tedium of the 1km rule.
Apart from running, the lockdown has an impact on my job too. As mentioned in the last podcast, more and more educational institutions are getting their heads round the idea of leaving the 4-wall classroom and entering the digitalised one. Nevertheless, there are still some laggards in terms of online teaching.
Since this morning, I have been receiving emails from the various universities and nursing schools where I teach. The school administrations are confirming what everyone in France knows by now: the campuses will be closed and all classes, if possible, will go online. More details are expected to be sent out tomorrow and the next week. For schools which have implemented hybrid teaching in the last two months, that is, some classes are conducted online while others in the physical classrooms, will have a smoother transition. For others, the school administrations are now grappling with a 100% shift to online teaching. For the latter, I am expecting some of my scheduled lessons to be cancelled, which will thus hurt my pocket.
Fortunately, in this adopted country of mine, solidarity is highly valued. Like the first lockdown, financial aid is expected to be given out to enterprises and freelancers like myself, who are financially affected by the lockdown. Hence, I am not that worried in this respect.
Guess my next few posts will be about France Lockdown, Season II. Stay tuned!