Coronavirus Roundtable: Toulouse
Foreign Correspondent Ben Mirzoeff describes his experience of being in France at the time of the crisis and how it has affected him
The city of Toulouse itself was not noticeably affected by COVID-19 before the strict national lockdown was enforced by the government. Stockpiling was not an issue at all and the hysteria that hit the UK, nowhere to be seen. In fact, until Macron’s strict lockdown policy was announced on Monday 16 March the city carried on as usual and the centre as busy as it would be on a weekend. However, as soon as rumours of this announcement spread there was an immediate reaction: the official speech was at 8pm. But by midday I had been told that my company would not be able to keep on interns and that today, only my eleventh of a five-month placement, would be my last. Within 24 hours, being outside without official permission was a fineable offence.
…as soon as rumours of this announcement spread, there was an immediate reaction
When I eventually got a flight, faced with no option but to return to England, I had been awake for 36 hours. For nine of these, I spent my time in an apocalyptically deserted airport having had my Tuesday night flight cancelled last minute and then my Wednesday morning one delayed by seven hours. France’s sharp response to the crisis was the most dramatic in Europe, particularly in terms of the sudden enforcement of strict restrictions. On a personal level, it results not only in a loss of money (rent, emergency flights, loss of anticipated pay) and a key opportunity, it also severely impacts my year-abroad assessment and therefore my degree.