What We All Can Do, or Not, to Beat the Pandemic
We can expect more news from the President of France Tuesday night (on most TV stations at 8 p.m. France time) about our next phase of lockdown and how that might affect the Christmas holidays. It is anticipated that there won’t be a hard ending to the current measures, but an easing down of them in light of the positive effects this one is having on the reduced number of cases and deaths since the most recent confinement measures. The press believes that non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen as well as ski stations (which the French will be very happy about) and that small family groups will be allowed to gather together.
Our latest confinement began October 31st, limiting travel to imperative reasons, but leaving nurseries and schools to remain open. Wearing a mask has been compulsory (from the age of 6 and up), but allowed is delivery and take-out from restaurants up till 10 p.m. at night. Imperative reasons for travel have included going to work if teleworking is not possible, getting to a medical appointment, carrying out a public service or being summoned for judicial purposes, picking up children from school, assisting a loved one, making essential purchases, performing volunteer services or missions, taking exams, practicing an individual sporting activity or exercising…all within a radius of one kilometer from home and within the limits of one hour.
Travel between regions has been prohibited except for business, education and other exceptions with an “attestation” or travel certificate. (We have to create a new one each time we step outside our doors.) One can move to a new home, within the limits of six people making the move at once. Shops have been authorized to remain open including pharmacies, DIY stores, car repair shops, opticians, computer equipment stores, purveyors of press and media, garden centers, pet stores, laundromats and laundries, banks, post offices and insurance companies. Factories and farms could continue their production. Bookstores and libraries couldn’t allow you to enter and browse, but you can order your books and pick them up. Public transport has operated, with lighter schedules, and parking lots are open. Parks and gardens have remained open as have churches and synagogues, but gatherings in them have not been allowed. Funerals have been allowed with a maximum of 30 people and weddings could be held with a maximum of eight guests (plus the happy couple). Gyms have been closed except to children within special time slots. High level athletes can continue their professional activities as can those with compulsory training.
Fortunately, all the public sanitation services have been fully functioning, so the streets in Paris are the cleanest I’ve ever seen them. Hotels have remained open, but only to those traveling on business, again with an attestation. I have an app on my smart phone that I can use to create a new attestation every time I leave my apartment, which I make a point of doing daily, for exercise and shopping or whatever is necessary.
Do we like it? No, of course not. Are we complying? Yes, of course. And the numbers are now on the positive downhill as a result. We have our own anti-mask-wearing contingency in France, but it’s a small group with no serious following. Mostly, people are fully masked and if not, someone is sure to remind the offender.
The French are rule-makers and rule-followers, hence their solidarity with the fight against the pandemic. This kind of solidarity provides a kind of comfort in that we’re all in this together and that helps relieve some of the fear associated with the unknown aspects of the pandemic.
My friend Barb Westfield’s reaction to my coming down to Provence like I do almost every year was not only normal, but correct. She normally hosts up to 18 guests in her beautiful Provençal home, but in her own words, “This year—the year Covid came to visit—it’s just not happening. Close contact, groups of people and social merriment are not on the menu.”
According to Barb, her “département” and the neighboring two of Bouche de Rhone and the Gard, have had nearly 20 percent positive rates of those tested, as does her own, the Vaucluse. She says she’s not “hiding” in her home, but she is armed with Clorox and Lysol! “This is Covid lockdown in the countryside in France. No long drives to look at fall colors…no museums…no shops…no cafés. I’m no wimp, but, this virus is not subsiding, and frankly I’m not interested in the risk of getting it nor passing it onto another person, moreover a friend. So I’m staying home: alone. My choice. No tears, no regrets and like this entire year, it’s just another day.”
The fines are hefty. The first fine is €135 and a premium up to €375. In case you break the lockdown rules, the fine gets steep for recidivists: if you break it another time within the next 15 days, the fine costs 200€ (with a premium to €450), then €3,750 and up to six months’ jail time for a third breach within 30 days.
In Paris, I haven’t seen anyone stopped and don’t know anyone who has been stopped, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Barb has witnessed it on the roads in and around her Provençal home. “The bridge nearest to me is immediately adjacent to the freeway entry/exit. The ‘gendarmes’ hang out for violators on either side of the bridge waiting for their prey,” she warned.
Barb’s a regular at the Hyper-U, one of those massive markets scattered all over France that sell everything and anything. They’ve installed “intelligent disinfection cabins” or “tunnels” to disinfect their shoppers as they enter! Just like a metal detector at airports, these scan your face to ensure you’re wearing a mask. The cabin takes your temperature with an infrared thermometer on the palm of your hand and then it then sprays a disinfectant solution as well as uses ultraviolet rays to disinfect further. Who needs Clorox and Lysol when you have this kind of high tech!?
France isn’t the first country to have these portals. Similar machines have been used for the last several years in Asia, Iran, Pakistan and Uzbekistan and more recently in Turkey, Morocco, Russia, Northern Ireland and Belgium. Basically, it’s Clorox (Barb, be sure you’re well stocked!), actually a heavily diluted chlorine bleach. The portals are being installed in super/hypermarkets all over France now, even in some shops and restaurants at a cost of about €12,000. They don’t claim to be 100 percent effective, but they could make a big difference to allowing us to go back to a more normal life. And asymptomatic people can still spread the virus, even after having passed through the machine.
Sadly, the U.S. has had no national plan in the battle against Covid-19 like France. And, from what I see via U.S. media, friends living in the U.S. and our reader responses, there is an understandable and serious fear of the pandemic. On top of that, there’s a large contingency of anti-mask-wearing that contributes to the insecurity others are facing. My sister in New Orleans had a pool service she quite liked for a very long time. The head of the company who serviced the pool not only refused to wear a mask around her, but lectured her for more than 20 minutes on why it was against his rights. She was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation at the time, so it was dangerous for her that he was unprotected. I intervened and explained that if he couldn’t comply with wearing a simple mask, not outdoors around the pool, but when he was in the house or near her, then he couldn’t continue the service. He flatly refused, giving up his long-standing client in his interest of “freedom.”
Everyone has their own level of comfort or anxiety in trying to balance the aspects of this unusual period of confinement with how they choose to live their own lives, taking into consideration the risks involved to themselves and others. The only thing we can do, is do our best. Somehow we have to balance the rules with the risks and how we value our lives and those of the people we love, and even those we don’t even know. There are many who wish to argue that the seasonal flu is just as dangerous, but statistics show that the fatality rates are many times higher with Covid-19, particularly for those of us over the age of 60. There is something to be learned here about how we perceive all disease, not just Covid-19.
My wish in all of this, however, would be to eliminate the fear, if nothing else. Over the years I’ve written about my devotion to the philosophies of Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and other insightful books. Something he wrote struck me intensely 15 years ago when I first discovered him, and I took it to heart. It has served me well, eliminating fear in a very profound way. He wrote: “The reason why you don’t put your hand in the fire is not because of fear, it’s because you know that you’ll get burned. You don’t need fear to avoid unnecessary danger—just a minimum of intelligence and common sense. For such practical matters, it is useful to apply the lessons learned in the past. Now if someone threatened you with fire or with physical violence, you might experience something like fear.
This is an instinctive shrinking back from danger, but not the psychological condition of fear that we are talking about here. The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia, and so on. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now. You are in the here and now, while your mind is in the future. This creates an anxiety gap. And if you are identified with your mind and have lost touch with the power and implicitness of the Now, that anxiety gap will be your constant companion. You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection—you cannot cope with the future.”
This means that we just have to do what we can at this very challenging time to remove the risk, using our knowledge and understanding of this foe, but not living in fear of it. This is where my head is at and I hope yours is, too.
Stay informed. Stay safe. Stay happy and healthy. Happy Thanksgiving no matter where you will be celebrating it with whomever…or alone.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. My sincerest apologies to my dear friend, Barb Westfield, for eliciting any reaction by her friends or our readers to think for one moment that she is not right in protecting herself and the lives of others by following the Covid-19 guidelines set forth by France. We are all in this boat together and it is not my place to “rock it.”
P.P.S. The Welcome City Lab is recruiting its new batch of startups!
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You write well Adrian! Thank you! I always enjoy your newsletter.