The great escape: pictures show Paris in gridlock as residents flee ahead of month-long coronavirus lockdown

More than 430 miles of gridlock traffic seen in city by 6pm

Sam Hancock
Friday 30 October 2020 13:54 GMT
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Traffic jams in Paris as traffic records were reported to have been broken
Traffic jams in Paris as traffic records were reported to have been broken

Images from last night show tens of thousands of Parisians attempting to flee the city before France’s second national lockdown came into effect at midnight. 

The astonishing pictures show the huge amounts of people attempting a mass exodus of the capital either by car or train — all done in the early evening in an attempt to beat the 9pm curfew.

Traffic records were reportedly broken, with standstill jams seen across the city, as thousands attempted to head to their second homes via car. Huge queues also formed inside and outside major stations as desperate citizens crammed onto trains.

A video posted to Twitter shows the extraordinary amount of cars attempting to leave Paris. In the 30-second clip a sea of car horns can be heard — Le Parisien reported that there was more than 430 miles (700km) of gridlock traffic in the city by 6pm. 

Meanwhile those choosing to remain in the city took the opportunity to meet up with friends and family at bars and restaurants before they closed temporarily.

As part of the new measures, residents will be forced to remain at home unless documented proof can be provided to authorities to justify anyone’s reasoning for being outside. Social gatherings are also banned.

It is believed the new rules, which French president Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday evening, will last until at least 1 December. 

Crowds of people attempt to board trains at Gare de Lyon

As is clear from the emerging pictures, the majority of French people do not feel comfortable being forced to remain in their homes while in the city. 

One woman told Le Figaro newspaper that she had decided to leave her family's Paris apartment for their second home in Bernay in northern France. She said spending the first lockdown in Paris was “psychologically hard” — but in Bernay “the air is cleaner, we breathe, we feel free”. 

A crowd of people flock to a train heading out of Paris at Gare de Lyon

A key reason so many were eager to leave Paris is that the new lockdown bans the majority of travel. 

Aside from going to and from work, if absolutely necessary, residents will only be allowed out of their homes for essential trips such as going to the doctor and visiting a relative at an elderly people’s home. 

Parisians arrive at Gare de Lyon to join the growing queues of people attempting to get inside and on a train

Crowds gather outside Gare de Lyon as residents attempt to avoid being locked down in the capital

The strict lockdown is an attempt by Mr Macron and his administration to lessen the amount of daily cases of coronavirus from its current 40,000 to 5,000, he said in a televised statement. 

In the address, which was watched by almost 33 million people, Mr Macron said that France must "brutally apply the brakes" to avoid being "submerged by the acceleration of the epidemic".

A group of young Catholics pray for the victims of the Nice attack, which took place yesterday, on the final evening of being allowed to gather outside

"The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated," he said, before speaking about the pressure French hospitals are under due to half of all intensive care beds being occupied by Covid patients.

Daily coronavirus deaths in France are at the highest level since April. On Thursday, authorities reported 47,637 new cases and 250 new deaths.

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