On Sunday evening, Parisians gathered in front of their televisions to watch President Macron announce that the French capital was joining the rest of the country in turning “green”, the lowest coronavirus threat level, a week ahead of schedule.
City residents rejoiced they can now dine inside of restaurants.
For the last fortnight leisure-thirsty Parisians have had to make do with cafe-terraces while the rest of the country, deemed safer, has enjoyed a return to dining rooms. Still, locals have been more than happy to fill al-fresco seating, to sip rose and put the world to rights under the auspices of busy masked waiters.
Now the locals have greater freedom to enjoy this sliver of time when their dense little capital is open only to them before the tourists return.
As the spectre of the return of overseas visitors grows greater – France eased its border restrictions this week (but not to Britons) – residents wonder what tourism will look like for the City of Love in a post-pandemic age. Do Parisians even want tourists back?
Caroline Leboucher, chief executive of Atout France, the French organisation responsible for promoting France as a tourism destination, says the tragedies of 2015 – the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices and then, in November, the Bataclan nightclub – gave Paris unwanted experience in bouncing back.
“We’ve learned our lesson in terms of crisis management and action to be taken,” she said. “The first thing is to regain trust, and that means measures and training people, making sure all the protocols are implemented as they should be.”
Many of Paris’s smaller museums and galleries have already reopened, with hygiene protocols in place; other big-hitters, such as the Louvre and the Pompidou, will follow in July. After an initial shortage of masks, the city now has ample supply, with both washable versions and bulk packs of surgical masks available in supermarkets.
Every shop or restaurant entrance now features a hand sanitizer dispenser (sometimes decorated in true Parisian style), while the city has also installed hand gel dispensers across metro stations and bus stops.