The streets of Paris and eight other French cities fell silent last night as police enforced a 9pm curfew aimed at stemming the surge in coronavirus infections.
Twenty million French people – about a third of the population – are now under the 9pm to 6am curfew.
Most people stayed at home rather than risking a €135 (£122) fine for breaching the controversial curfew, which began on Saturday and will remain in force for at least a month. About 12,000 police officers have been assigned to patrol the streets.
Dog-walkers and people travelling to work or seeking medical treatment are allowed out, but must carry a signed declaration explaining their reason.
Police dispersed a few dozen protesters who tried to march through Paris on Saturday night, chanting “We hate the curfew”.
Marie-Christine Bailly, 53, a Paris resident, said: “I took my dog out just before I went to bed and I was stopped by police. They asked to see my declaration, which I thought was a bit much as they could see I was walking the dog. But I’m not against the curfew. Most people accept that we must protect ourselves against the virus.”
Restaurateurs, meanwhile, are angry at effectively being forced to close. French people tend to eat later than Britons and many Paris restaurants normally start serving dinner at 8pm.
Didier Desert, owner of the Ambassade d’Auvergne, a restaurant in Paris, said: “We’re opening a bit earlier, at 6pm, and we’ll see how it goes. But customers aren’t happy about having to finish by 8 so they can get home before curfew.”
France is currently one of Europe’s coronavirus hotspots, recording more than 32,000 new cases on Saturday. The government has urged people to limit social gatherings to a maximum of six people, but many university students appear determined to continue holding mass parties.
Michèle, 21, a political science student, said she was among more than 100 guests at a private “nuit blanche” party that began before 9pm on Saturday and went on until after 6am so that revellers did not violate the curfew when they went home.
“Me and my friends don’t want to sacrifice our whole lives for this virus,” she said.
Streets of Paris deserted as 9pm curfew kicks in The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ The Telegraph.