I went for a long walk last night in Paris. I chuntered most of the way, only breaking off to nod a greeting to the handful of other maskless pedestrians. We’re a dwindling band, but there’s a camaraderie among us, a bond created by our refusal to give in to hysteria. It’s an eclectic club, cutting across sex, age and ethnicity. A report this week stated that Frenchwomen in their 50s were the most reluctant to wear masks, but in Paris I would say it’s men in their forties and women in their early twenties.
But to see someone on the streets in Paris without a mask has become increasingly rare in recent weeks. In May I wrote that in my estimation fifty per cent of Parisians sported them, a figure that has now risen to about two thirds of the population; that chimes with a recent survey that found 63 per cent of French people believe masks should be mandatory on the streets.
I took a selfie at one point last night and sent it to a friend in England; it was captioned ‘My last hours of freedom’. I was still chuntering when I went to bed, and my mood hadn’t improved when I left my flat this morning to go for a run. I’m an early bird, out of the house at 7am, but I glanced at my watch as I ran, mindful that if I wasn’t back by 8am I could be fined €135 (£120) for not wearing a mask.
And therein lies the reason for my rage. Yesterday the government announced that as of 8am today masks are mandatory in Paris and its outlying areas. No exceptions, not even for cyclists or runners. In the municipal running track where I like to blow off steam there were a couple of other regulars who, like me, were enjoying their last run without a mask.