Virus rebels from France to Florida flout lockdown practices

  • Despite warnings from government officials to take caution and self distance because of the coronavirus, beach goers enjoy the beach Friday in Isle of Palms, S.C. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

PARIS — Young German adults hold “corona parties” and cough toward older people. A Spanish man leashes a goat to go for a walk to skirt confinement orders. From France to Florida to Australia, kitesurfers, college students and others crowd the beaches.

Their defiance of lockdown mandates and scientific advice to fight the coronavirus pandemic has prompted crackdowns by authorities on people trying to escape cabin fever brought on by virus restrictions. In some cases, the virus rebels resist — threatening police as officials express outrage over public gatherings that could spread the virus.

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“Some consider they’re little heroes when they break the rules,” French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said. “Well, no. You’re an imbecile, and especially a threat to yourself.”

After days of noncompliance by people refusing to stay home and venture out only for essential tasks, France on Friday sent security forces into train stations to prevent people from traveling to their vacation homes, potentially carrying the virus to the countryside or beaches where medical facilities are less robust. The popular Paris walkway along the Seine River was closed and a nightly curfew was imposed in the French Mediterranean city of Nice by Mayor Christian Estrosi, who is infected with the virus.

Florida officials closed some of the state’s most popular beaches after images of rowdy spring break college crowds appeared on TV for days amid the rising global death toll, which surpassed 13,000 on Sunday. Australia closed Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach after police were outraged at pictures of the crowds.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that people from 18-to-49 account for more than half of the state’s coronavirus cases, warning them “you’re not Superman, and you’re not Superwoman.”

Many people were not complying with social distancing recommendations to stay away from each other in New York City’s vast city park network ahead of a ban on congregating in groups that goes into effect Sunday night, Cuomo said.

“You can wind up hurting someone who you love, or hurting someone wholly inadvertently. Social distancing works, and you need social distancing everywhere,” Cuomo warned.

As new coronavirus cases in China dropped to zero several days in a row, the chief medical officer for the International Clinic of Wuhan was alarmed at those elsewhere refusing to follow rules to contain the virus. Dr. Philippe Klein said people should look to China’s confinement of tens of millions as an example to emulate “with courage, with patience, with solidarity.”

“I exhort you, the French, to apply the rules in our way,” said Klein, who is French.

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Worldwide, over 307,000 people have been infected. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. But it can cause more severe illness in others, especially older adults and people with existing health conditions. Some 92,000 people have recovered, mostly in China, where the virus first struck late last year.

The virus rebels tend to range from restless teens to wealthy adults who can travel to their getaway homes.

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