Normally, this first Thursday in September should have been synonymous with the start of the school year in Martinique, just like in the rest of France. But it has not happened. In this island of the Antilles, schools remained deserted all day, as a result of the postponement of the start of the school year to September 13 in several overseas territories in the grip of a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases.
It is towards the coast that it is necessary to head to find a little animation in the early morning. Eight o’clock has not yet struck at the steeple of the church of Schœlcher, in the suburbs of Fort-de-France, and yet the beach of Anse Collat is teeming with activity. A few joggers are sweating on the gray sand. In the translucent water, lots of swimmers of all ages, equipped with water aerobics fries, liven up their dip with a few exercises, while others, further away, swim enthusiastically among turtles and schools of sardines. Two friends pass each other on the beach and greet each other. “Normally I’m here in the evening, after work, or on weekends, said Beatrice, the youngest. But we are forced to change our habits. Now I come in the morning before telecommuting. This allows me to psychologically manage this confinement. “
Coming with her daughter and her brother, the young woman knows full well that she has broken several of the rules in force since August 10: she has ventured well beyond a radius of 1 kilometer around her home and, besides, she has no prescription. Indeed, if the beaches of Martinique are prohibited from access for the duration of the confinement, an exception is allowed, every morning, between 5 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., on condition of having a medical certificate recommending the practice of sport. . “It is an aberration that the beach is closed, that the Martinicans are deprived of their nature. It is a real medicine for us ”, Beatrice indignantly before taking her leave. At half past eight the cove empties. From this time, the gendarmes of Schœlcher frequently patrol the beaches of the town and issue a ticket to any offender.
For three weeks, the atmosphere has become heavy in Martinique, and the sweltering, normal in this cyclonic period, has nothing to do with it. By order of the authorities, the inhabitants locked themselves in their homes, and most businesses – those considered by the prefecture as non-essential – are closed until further notice. In the morning, despite the many rolling shutters that remain down, the streets of Fort-de-France come back to life for a few hours, of course, the time for city dwellers to do some shopping. But attendance is far from a normal level for early September. “From noon or 1 p.m., when people have finished buying their take-out meal at a restaurant, activity drops”, notes Emmanuel, a local resident who went out for a break during his telecommuting day. “Some businesses which have the right to remain open close at noon because they do not have enough customers in the afternoon. I know restaurateurs who have stopped the take-away sale because it does not bring in enough ”, continues the young man. In fact, around 2 p.m., the economic and cultural lung of the island empties of its last strollers and goes back to sleep under a scorching sun.
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