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Fatigue Outpaces Progress as France Enters Yet Another Lockdown

PARIS — At the Montparnasse train station in Paris, the contrast couldn’t have been sharper.

About a year ago, faced with the first national lockdown against a raging coronavirus epidemic, Parisians desperately jammed into trains in an exodus that turned Montparnasse into a place of fear and anxiety, and the capital into a ghost town.

But on Friday morning, a day before the start of the third national lockdown, foot traffic was relatively light inside Montparnasse station and others in Paris. The mood was one of deep fatigue ahead of restrictions that, once again, will severely limit travel across France, confine people’s movements in their communities and shut down schools.

“There is a bit of weariness,” said Muriel Sallandre, who was catching a train to visit her parents in western France but planned to return to Paris in a few days. “The absence of perspective, being dependent on the government’s messages — all that is ultimately a little depressing.”

Many French people rushed to buy train tickets immediately after the announcement of a new lockdown on Wednesday evening. So the capital’s stations will likely get more crowded over the weekend as travelers planning to spend the latest lockdown outside Paris mix with those traveling to visit relatives for Easter. Some Parisians also left the capital after restrictions were imposed in the capital region a couple of weeks ago.

But nothing like last year’s exodus was expected as panic has mostly given way to resignation. Even though President Emmanuel Macron pledged that this would be France’s last national lockdown before life returns to normal, there was no clear light at the end of the tunnel: Infections are soaring as France’s total deaths from the epidemic nears 100,000, and as in the rest of the European Union, progress on the vaccination campaign remains painfully slow.

“The way things are going, I feel that in a month we will be put under an even stricter lockdown,” said Marie-Yvonne Bougrel, 53, adding she did not “feel that the measures implemented are really effective.”

Like many others in the train station, Ms. Bougrel said she was disappointed by the slow vaccine rollout that has plagued France since late December, adding that she knew only one person who had been vaccinated.

In a nationally televised address watched live on Wednesday by about half of France’s population of 67 million, Mr. Macron announced yet another national lockdown after months of resisting advice from epidemiologists and pressure from political rivals. He had bet unsuccessfully that despite rising infections and new powerful variants, a national lockdown could be avoided if enough people got vaccinated at a steady pace.

But logistical and other homegrown problems compounded the difficulties of a campaign that was dependent on vaccines that did not materialize as expected, especially from the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which ran into production shortages and said its contracts required it to fulfill orders to Britain first.

Its vaccine, which France and other European countries bet heavily on to lead them out of the pandemic, has also been plagued by worries about rare but sometimes fatal side effects that led them briefly to suspend its use. Some nations are still not giving it out or are restricting who gets it.

Among the French, the mood has grown more somber as other nations, especially Britain and the United States, have bounced back from a disastrous handling of the epidemic with successful inoculation campaigns. Just 13 percent of France’s population has had at least one vaccine shot, compared with 47 percent of people in Britain and 30 percent in the United States.

At the train station, Brigitte Bidaut, a retired pharmacist, said she was “appalled by what is going on in France.”

“The United States was in a complete mess, and now they are getting two million vaccinations a day. The British were…

Read More: Fatigue Outpaces Progress as France Enters Yet Another Lockdown

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