A dash by Parisians to either escape the new national lockdown or scramble back to the French capital to prepare for the restrictions caused record traffic jams on Thursday night.
The movement in and out of the city created a record 706km of traffic on roads in the region by 6pm, according to France’s traffic department.
France’s new four-week lockdown comes into effect at midnight on Thursday, prompting those who can afford it, or who don’t have children, to leave Paris to spend “réconfinement” in the countryside – and those already on holiday to return en masse.
France’s lockdown comes into effect two days before the end of the All Saints school holidays, which mark the half way point between summer and Christmas. French president Emmanuel Macron said there would be “tolerance” so that “everyone can return from their vacation spot, so that families can organise themselves”.
Thursday’s total traffic was nearly 200km longer than the previous record, which was also at the end of the All Saints holiday in 2019, le Parisien reports. Then, the record was was 525km at 6pm.
Under the lockdown, people will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential purposes: food shopping, commuting to work if it is not possible to work from home, and medical or imperative family reasons. Outdoor exercise will be allowed for one hour per day and within 1km of home. Schools will remain open, with children aged six and over required to wear masks.
Le Figaro reported that several accidents and breakdowns occurred in and around Paris.
“Paris traffic is legendary,” wrote one user on Twitter, “but this I’ve never seen.”
La circulation à Paris c’est légendaire là j’ai jamais vu ça.
— clemenceji (@Clemenceji) October 29, 2020
Others referred to the traffic as a “mess”, a “madness” and a “hell”.