Sacre bleu what's happened to elbow bumping, here in France? Faire la bise, cheek to cheek greetings are back. As resorts open for business in the Alps, the French are treating Covid with a Gallic shrug...
They've dusted off the rust and oiled the cogs for the first lifts to start rolling in Serre Chevalier since September 2020, when they came to a grinding halt unable to run during the winter thanks to the pervading pandemic paranoia.
Today, 19th June, the Chantemerle gondolas came out of their winter storage to make their merry way up the mountains, once more. Pandemic? What pandemic? France seems to be doing a Nelson and turning a blind eye to another potential Covid wave from the Delta Covid variant because, as always, it's Vive Les Vacances.
You wouldn't know there had ever been a pandemic currently in Serre Chevalier. The valley is already beginning to fill with visitors pre the school holidays in July. Last night, in Chantemerle, the bars, which have now taken over ever square metre of outside space, were rammed. Not a face mask in sight and social distancing nil. Elbow-bumping greetings have been given the, er, elbow. Faire la bise, cheek to cheek greetings are back, yep, even between the men.
Yet less than 24 percent of the French population has been fully vaccinated - and with 44 percent declaring to be anti-vaxxers, there's the fear that herd immunity may never happen. According to the French Academy of Medicine, the country must vaccinate 90 percent of its adults, or 80 percent of the whole population, to vanquish the Covid-19 crisis.
But the whole population is just giving a Gallic shrug. In Chantemerle, there were some of the 250 mountain bikers milling around, registering for this weekend's Alps Epic trail event riding some tough albeit scenic mountain routes around the valley. Along with a new zip wire, a river in full flow for kayaking and slopes filled with mountain meadow flowers for walkers, Serre Chevalier, like all the other mountain resorts, is ready to welcome one and all to the valley for the summer.
All but the Brits, that is. Currently there's not a 'mot' of Anglais from UK visitors although US and American tourists have now been given the green light. This may make some of the xenophobic French very happy but those in the UK travel and tourism sectors are less so.
Many think that the French are right and it is time to call a halt to continued travel restrictions. To lobby the UK Government, SBIT, Seasonal Businesses In Travel are promoting a day of action on 23rd June. Employees and businesses from across the aviation and travel industries – airlines, airports, tour operators, travel agents, suppliers and partners – will be coming together to raise awareness of the challenges facing the travel industry, and to ask that the UK Government reinstate a risk-managed approach around a safe return to international travel in time for the peak summer period and to think again about financial support offered to the sector.
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