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Witnesses said more than 100 angry residents took to the streets demanding an end to the night-time restrictions which came into force last night. At least one protester let off a flare and others shouted “freedom!” as bars and restaurants closed their doors for the night and turned customers out onto the streets.
Ther are employees who will lose their jobs, several restaurants will go bankrupt. It’s a disaster
One man said: “I work in the food business, do you want me to stop working?
“I hope that the government stops these ridiculous measures that put people in the streets.”
The 9pm to 6am curfews will last for at least four weeks and have been imposed on the French capital and other major cities including Lyon, Lille, Toulouse and Marseille.
Mr Macron is grappling with how to slow the spread of the virus and ease pressure on a once-again strained healthcare system while keeping its £2.3 trillion economy open and protecting jobs.
The curfews kicked in on the day health ministry data showed the number of new coronavirus infections in France jumped more than 32,000 in one day for the first time since the start of the epidemic.
Mr Macron has ordered the nightly curfews in cities where the coronavirus was the most active, saying it was spreading at parties and private gatherings and action was needed or else hospitals risked being overwhelmed.
The head of the Paris regional health authority described the infection curve as “vertical” and said intensive care units would come under heavy pressure in the next 10 days.
While some people understood the need to contain the virus, restaurant managers cautioned about the impact on a sector that already suffered major losses during the spring lockdown.
Stefano Anselmo, 44, manager of Italian restaurant Bianco in Paris, said: “There will surely be employees who will lose their jobs, several restaurants will go bankrupt. It’s a disaster.”
Pizzeria manager Laurent Jespas said turnover was first hammered by a three-month coronavirus lockdown in the spring, then early closing and now the nightly curfew.
He said: “What help are we going to get for our fixed expenses?
“We’ll lose at least 70 percent of what we make in the evening, and that’s being optimistic.”
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire promised more government help for companies in the hospitality industry to get through the curfew.
He said companies would be exempt from their social charges if revenues were down more than 50 percent.
A local waiter said: “It’s 9pm, but looks like it’s 1am. We will adapt, but it’s a big loss. The evening hours are important to us.”
Most young people in Paris appear resigned to the latest restrictions.
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Bastien Delaunay, a 22-year-old law student, said: “For restaurateurs, I understand that it is difficult but there is a moment when it is necessary to make a balance between public health and economic health.”
Jeanne Baudin, also 22, said: “On Saturday night we used to go out all the time. We organised many things and now that’s over. At 9pm we must go home. That’s the time when we used to go out.”
Another 22-year-old, Lea Beaujouan, said: “Of course we’ll reduce our social life but I’m not going to stop it altogether otherwise we’ll just do nothing. I’ll adapt, I’ll come earlier.”
Nathanael Koffi, 25, said the measures would prove worthwhile if the spread slowed dramatically as a result.
He said: “A month of sacrifice is not awful.”
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