• Over 170 million people are locked down across Europe.
  • The EU has closed its external borders to non-residents.
  • French citizens face a $146 fine if they go outdoors without a valid reason.

On the face of it, the Attestation de déplacement dérogatoire is a straightforward form. In a nation known for its centralised system of government, forms are nothing new. But this one represents a remarkable curtailment of freedom in the country built on the concepts of liberty and equality.

France is in lockdown and citizens are not permitted to step outside their front door without completing the form. They must state their justification for being outdoors and if they don’t have a good reason they are liable to be fined $146.

 French Ministry of the Interior
A from to be filled by French nationals on their reasoning for being out of the house.
Image: French Ministry of the Interior

Over 100,000 regular police and soldiers are on the streets of French towns and cities to enforce what President Emmanuel Macron has called a “war” against the coronavirus. He hopes that by confining people to their homes, the spread of COVID-19 can be contained.

The only people permitted to be outdoors are those who can’t work from home, who are going to help sick relatives, buy essential supplies from approved shops or attend a medical appointment, or who are taking brief exercise alone.

Life under lockdown

Across Europe, streets started to empty when people showing symptoms of the virus began to self-isolate. Now in some countries there are blanket bans on anyone leaving their homes. More than 170 million people are reported to be under lockdown.

Italy and Spain have both imposed such restrictions on citizens as they battle Europe’s two highest rates of coronavirus infection. Austria and the Czech Republic have also ordered citizens to stay at home and avoid all but essential outings to buy food and medical supplies.

Norway has passed a law requiring people to stay at home or risk a $2,000 dollar fine and up to 15 days in jail. Norwegians who have taken refuge in their popular country cabins have been ordered to return home immediately or risk arrest.

Finland has invoked emergency powers to close its borders and shut schools and universities. Public gatherings of more than 10 people are also banned in the country. And Sweden, Belgium and Denmark have also urged people to stay at home and avoid gatherings.

The European Union, meanwhile, has closed its external border.

Social distancing

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has told people to stay home and cancel all travel plans. The government has banned gatherings in places of worship and ordered non-essential shops, as well as playgrounds, to be shut.

Why is social distancing so important/
Why is social distancing so important/
Image: Statista

In the UK, the government says people should work from home where possible and has told citizens to practise “social distancing” – keeping at least two metres away from other people. Meanwhile, people have been urged to avoid pubs, bars and large social gatherings.

Few large gatherings are now planned anywhere in Europe, with sporting fixtures including the Euro 2020 soccer tournament, as well as concerts and festivals postponed or cancelled.

Even production of popular TV shows is being stopped, including the BBC’s long-running soap opera EastEnders and two of its hit medical dramas.

Displays of solidarity

An outbreak of altruism across the continent is helping those forced to stay at home to adjust to their new way of life.

Neighbours are volunteering to collect essential supplies for people self-isolating, or even walk their dog for them.

In Seville, Spain, a fitness instructor is leading exercise classes from the rooftop of an apartment block so people stuck indoors in neighbouring buildings can stay in shape.

In the United States, artist Yadesa Bojia produced Facebook videos translating official coronavirus advice for his fellow Ethiopian Americans, and a group in Oxford, UK, has set up an online advice hub for vulnerable people self-isolating.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

You can keep up to date with the rapidly changing situation globally through the World Economic Forum’s frequent updates on COVID-19, featuring the latest trends, research and analysis.