© Fanny Monier
As 2020 draws to a close amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, Mediapart knocked on the doors of the inhabitants of an apartment block in the town of Meaux, east of Paris, to ask them about their experiences living through a year unlike any other. The lurking threat of the virus was of course a constant angst, but for many, it is the social and economic consequences that have marked them, and which leave them fearful for the future. Mathilde Goanec reports (illustrations by Fanny Monier).
The Bacheux combe, in the Maurienne alpine valley of Savoie where Covid-19 took grip in November. © FBt/Mediapart
When the coronavirus epidemic swept France this spring, the département (county) of Savoie, in the French Alps, was relatively unaffected. But last month, as the second wave of Covid-19 emerged, it became the country’s worst-hit by virus infections. Why? François Bonnet reports.
A message in tribute to murdered church warden Vincent Loquès. © Sana Sbouai
The terrorist knife attack last Thursday against a church in the Riviera city of Nice, when a 21-year-old Tunisian murdered two women and the basilica’s warden, has deeply shocked the local population. For many, the traumatic events brought back the horror of one of France’s worst terrorist attacks, on July 14th 2016, when a truck was driven into Bastille Day crowds on the city’s seafront boulevard, the Promenade des Anglais, killing 86 people. Sana Sbouai reports from Nice where locals tell her of their mixed feelings of anger, fear and despondency.
Rules have been put in place to allow visits to take place in care homes, as here in Nice in the south of France. © Hans Lucas via AFP
France's care home sector, which was on the front line of the Covid-19 crisis in the early part of the year, is now bracing itself for the second wave. A number of residential homes are already closed to visitors and in some areas staff have had to stop relatives climbing in through windows to see their loved ones. Amid the fear and anxiety about the rapid return of the Coronavirus, there is also growing bitterness among both care home staff and domestic carers that they have once again been overlooked. Angry representatives point out that their working conditions and pay have not been given the same priority as those of hospital staff. Mathilde Goanec reports.
Representatives of the CGT trade union who work at the Verallia glass-making factory at Cognac, August 19th 2020. © MJ
The global glass packaging firm Verallia produces two-thirds of new wine bottles in France and despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic it recently announced pre-tax earnings of 299 million euros for the first half of the year and paid out 100 million euros in dividends, most in the form of shares. Yet the company, which is owned by a New York-based private equity firm, has also announced a restructuring plan in France which will see the closure of one of its furnaces and the loss of more than a hundred jobs. Manuel Jardinaud reports on the mood of the company's workers in Cognac in south-west France as they fight to save their jobs.
Marguerite Taputu, from the island of Taha’a in French Polynesia, who has suffered thyroid and breast cancer, has never blamed France nor sought compensation for her suffering. © JS
Over a period of three decades beginning in 1966, France detonated 193 nuclear bombs in atmospheric and undergound tests in its overseas territory of French Polynesia in the South Pacific. The vast fallout from the explosions caused tens of thousands of cancers among the local population according to victims’ associations, although the true, and possibly much larger, toll remains unknown. Meanwhile, the French and local authorities continue to dismiss evidence of the transmission of illnesses to the children of those directly exposed to the nuclear tests. Julien Sartre reports from French Polynesia.
In common with other parts of the country, the potentially volatile La Reynerie district of the south-west city of Toulouse has seen flare-ups of violence since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in France on March 17th. On the ground, a combination of collectives, residents and associations have been trying to foster a sense of solidarity and set up support networks without waiting for a response from the city authorities who are only belatedly now trying to introduce measures to reduce local tensions. Emmanuel Riondé reports from Toulouse.
Volunteers hand out food at Bordeaux in south-west France on April 10th 2020. © Hans Lucas via AFP
Families who usually rely on casual work to make ends meet have been unable to earn money since the lockdown began in France on March 17th. As a result their children are starting to go hungry. On May 15th the French state will pay “emergency aid” of an extra 150 euros to families who already receive welfare benefits. But voluntary groups say this is not soon enough and that help is needed now. To fill the gap left by the state, local support groups have meanwhile been springing up across the country, in some cases led by teachers. Faïza Zerouala reports.
A cat prowls freely amid the lockdown in Audresselles. © JLLT / MP
The introduction by the French government last week of a lockdown on people’s movements amid the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic saw some city dwellers head for more pleasant surrounds in which to be confined. Sports journalist Jean-Louis Le Touzet was one of them, arriving just before the restrictions entered into force in a small village on the Channel coast, where he immediately began keeping this diary. In Audresselles, the health crisis is an economic catastrophe as businesses go to the wall in what Le Touzet’s British and Brexit-supporting neighbour, now confined in Europe, warns will be “worse than the crash in 2008”.
Homecare worker Claire Marcins visiting one of her charges. © Jordan Pouille / MP
As the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic accelerates across France, the country was officially placed in lockdown at midday on Tuesday, with the population required by law to remain at home except for essential purposes, such as buying food, attending medical appointments, or travelling to work for those with no alternative. Attention has been focused on the bizarre atmosphere taking over Paris and major cities as streets empty of pedestrians and vehicles. But the crisis ahead is nowhere more acute than for the dependent elderly and handicapped in rural areas who already rely on homecare workers to survive in normal times, and now more than ever. Jordan Pouille reports from the Sologne region in north-central France.