PARIS champagne, foie gras and a mashed potato soup with truffles were on the menu at one of the many secret elite parties held across Paris in violation of nationwide restrictions on the coronavirus, according to a French television report.
report, relying on hidden camera footage and broadcast over the weekend from the M6 channel, showed masked dinners in places such as a private mansion and a luxury restaurant. A dinner organizer initially said several French ministers had participated in the illegal parties, before withdrawing his statement.
The report sparked outrage in France, with thousands of people seeking explanations on social media and political leaders calling for strict enforcement of the blockade rules. In response, the Paris prosecutor’s office said Monday it would investigate the illegal dinners.
The news comes amid a deep sense of fatigue and frustration over a seemingly endless cycle of coronavirus restrictions in France, which has just entered a third national blockade aimed at fighting a third wave of infections.
The stations report showed staff at an unidentified luxury restaurant offering evening menus priced from 160 to 490 euros, or about 190-580 dollars. Only clients recommended by an unnamed third party would be served, dinners were advised.
We do not wear the mask here, said a waiter in white gloves at a dinner party, actually an undercover reporter. Once you go through the doors, Covid no longer exists.
Elsewhere, elegant masked guests are seen at a dinner party held at a luxury private mansion. The owner of the palace is heard saying: This week I dined at two or three restaurants, so-called clandestine restaurants, with a certain number of ministers.
The report did not identify the owner of the residence. But Pierre-Jean Chalanon, a well-known businessman and collector, admitted in an interview Monday that a party had been organized at his residence, although only nine people had been invited.
The comments he had made about the ministers attending the dinners, he said in a statement, were an attempt at humor.
No clear evidence has emerged that any minister participated in an illegal rally. Grald Darmanin, interior minister, on Monday said that, to his knowledge, no government official had participated.
The report, however, sparked online outrage Monday. Hashtags like #OnVeutLesNoms, or #WeWeWe, reflected widespread anger at the idea that elites were breaking the rules that others had to follow. The issue was still in trend on Twitter on Tuesday, with a new hashtag: #OnVeutLesDemissions, or #DuamResignations.
It is not the first time that some French restaurants had been secretly reopened during the pandemic in violation of government rules. Cafes and restaurants were forced to close for most of last year and have not reopened since the second national blockade last fall, angering many restaurant and dinner owners.
As France entered its third national blockade on Saturday, with schools and non-core businesses closed for a month, there is a state of deep resentment in the country. or poll released Thursday showed that a majority of French people were skeptical about the new effectiveness of the blockades and almost half said they planned to take action.
The interior ministry said on Tuesday that more than 7,000 restaurants had been searched by police since October last year, resulting in fines for 300 owners and 1,000 customers.
But while the illegal reopening of small restaurants has often been seen as harmless resistance to the place of gastronomy, illegal dinners hit another chord, opening a window into the ingrained nature and club of Frances elites.
Restrictions on officials imposing on others has been a problem for many governments. Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under strong pressure after a close adviser, Dominic Cummings, was found to have broken the blocking rules by traveling across the country.
Last month, French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot attended a closed-door opera performance and posed for photos with masked performers shortly before coming out positive for the coronavirus.
Some French government ministers have denied on television and radio shows that they were involved in secret dinners. If there were any, Mr Darman said on Sunday, they should be prosecuted.
There are no two types of citizens, with those who have the right to party and those who do not, he said.
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