The associations — including ATTAC (Association for the Taxation of financial Transactions and Aid to Citizens) — wrote that people in working class neighborhoods were on the front lines as essential workers. “Yet social inequalities, already glaring, are reinforced by the management of the coronavirus and will explode with the economic and social crisis to come.”
In stark contrast, wealthy residents at one of the country’s most exclusive gated communities on the French Riviera have been embroiled in controversy after it emerged that some had access to antibody testing, despite the strain on hospitals and nursing homes across the country.
Tensions flare in Parisian suburbs
The tensions in Paris’s northern suburbs flared up after an incident last Saturday night, when a motorcyclist, who is of a minority ethnicity, in the Villeneuve-la-Garenne banlieue broke his leg after police opened a car door in his path. Police said in a press release that the incident was an accident that occurred as officers got out of the car to speak with the motorcyclist, claiming 50 people then targeted police with projectiles.
The motorcyclist’s lawyer, Stephane Gas, has asked for an investigation into the police’s behavior by the General Inspectorate of National Police (IGPN), telling CNN that the police’s characterization of the incident was “all upside-down.”
He said the officers had opened the car door “in the middle of the lane” without warning before the collision. “All I can do is ask questions,” he said.
“People can see the double standards enacted during the confinement. All these images of people walking in the streets in Paris, unbothered by the police. All these images of police brutality in the suburbs.”
Bouhafs said the lockdown has taken a far harsher toll on working class families in the banlieues than on middle-class French households. “Confinement is not experienced in the same way by everyone,” he said. “We don’t all have terraces with neighbors playing the accordion.
“In the suburbs there are large families in low-rent housing with eight people or more … These people are cashiers, delivery men, postmen, people who don’t have the privilege of working from home.”
There have now been more than 120,000 cases and more than 22,000 deaths in France.
Castaner said in the Senate that since Saturday there had been “ambushes” on police, which he condemned “in the strongest possible terms.”
“Have no doubt: we are ensuring that containment is respected everywhere in France, and wherever our security forces are questioned and provoked. We owe them protection, we do so and we must punish this in the strongest possible way,” he added to the Senate.
Wealthy enclave embroiled in bitter row
Calls to support disadvantaged groups in the suburbs of Paris came as another coronavirus row unfolded on the other side of the country, in one of the most privileged enclaves of Saint-Tropez, the star-studded French Riviera playground of the rich and famous.
CNN has contacted Les Parcs’ association president, Jean-Louis Oger, but has not received a response.
One local told the Post that people in St-Tropez were “furious” that residents of the high-end estate, where some mansions are worth tens of millions of dollars, had access to antibody tests while regional hospitals were struggling and work was still being done to expand testing in nursing homes.
Saint-Tropez Mayor Jean-Pierre Tuveri said in a press release that there was a medical center but reports of Covid-19 testing for rich residents were “erroneous.” He said the tests that did take place were free trial antibody tests for a laboratory, which would need to be authorized for marketing and public use through the non-profit foundation Institut Pasteur.
Tuveri said there was “no way, since this test has not yet been validated, it could have been offered to the nursing home’s staff, to residents and even less to the population of Saint-Tropez.”
Aurélie Perthuison, press officer for Institut Pasteur, told CNN it was “not aware of the use of tests among the inhabitants of this city” and was ” not involved and was mistakenly quoted in a press release.”
Perthuison said that no industrial serological test had been validated by the Ministry of Health. “As such, it is impossible for a private laboratory to carry out live tests on a population,” she said.
She said that “all seroprevalence studies must be conducted in a formal setting” with oversight. “At present, only one seroprevalence study has been finalized, and it was conducted in Crépy-en-Valois, by our teams in conjunction with the French health authorities.”
A spokeswoman for the Regional Health Agency (ARS) for Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur said: “The ARS is looking into the matter. We were not aware of this testing operation before the publication in the press.”
Whatever the case in St.-Tropez, the rising anger seen on the streets of Paris shows just how the pandemic is exacerbating inequalities, according to activists and health professionals including Abdelaali El Badaoui, nurse and founder of the Banlieues Santé association, who lives in the city’s northern suburbs.
“As health professionals working in these areas, we foresaw that we would be hit particularly hard, given the multiple layers of social and health inequalities there,” El Badaoui, whose association works against medical and social inequalities in underprivileged areas, told CNN.
He said the organization had a plan in place for the health crisis in Seine-Saint-Denis as early as mid-March. It is distributing parcels of food and hygiene products as well as sharing videos it has made translating government and public health messages in 20 different languages.
El Badaoui said people who had lost their jobs were “really struggling” and the organization had seen some who had not eaten for a week. “People are not realizing it yet, but there is going to be a crisis like we’ve never seen before,” he said.
Others had stopped getting essential medical treatments because they were frightened to leave home or did not know how to contact health services.
“Not everyone is equal in front of this health crisis. And everyone should be,” he said.
“Coronavirus did not create the social crisis, coronavirus simply showed the level of misery that some people are living in right now. I think people should take it as a lesson, and remember it in order to do better in the future.
“Coronavirus should be an opportunity to change the way we engage with people who face inequalities on a daily basis.”
Benjamin Berteau and Barbara Wojazer reported from Paris, Emma Reynolds wrote in London.