After authorizing twelve Christmas chalets to open in the city center of Amiens on December 17, the prefecture of the Somme finally ordered them to close three days later. The traders concerned, who had incurred costs for the occasion, are “appalled “ by this about-face.
The prefectural decision fell “like a cleaver“. This December 19, the prefect of the Somme ordered the traders of the rare Christmas chalets in the city center of Amiens to cease their activity the same evening, for health reasons linked to the Covid-19. She had however agreed, on December 17, to open twelve chalets out of the hundred that the Amiens Christmas market usually has.
The twelve chalets are “each spaced four meters apart with a barrier in front and a very strict protocol, remembers Françoise Gaudefroy, treasurer of the federation of traders in Amiens. We had drawn up a health protocol signed by all the chalets and fairground attractions. I don’t see where the problem is, especially since it was validated by the prefect. We withdraw them three days later, I find that unfair.”
This administrative decision was taken following the progression of new positive cases in the Somme: 109 positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants have been identified over the last seven days, against 83 cases in early December.
A brutal decision
The manager deplores above all the “various procrastination by public authorities,“which successively suggested the opening of chalets at the end of November, on December 5 and then on December 17, before closing them.
In their chalets, most traders had incurred costs for these few days of being in the city center. “We heard the news last night. We are both sad and revolted because we came from Quebec on purpose. We did 6,000 kilometers, it’s not nothing,“sighs Juliette Viseur, who runs the Quebec stand, present at the Amiens Christmas market for 14 years.
Michel Pham had filled his freezer with spring rolls for two days of market. He is dumbfounded. “If I don’t manage to dispose of everything today, everything will end up in the trash. It represents 1,500 euros of goods going up in smoke, “he confides. The Christmas market represents almost half of the annual turnover of this merchant.”Usually it keeps us alive until April, “he adds.
Abrupt closure of the Amiens Christmas chalets: “I made 700 kilos of waffles for nothing”
Behind his waffle stand, Jean-François Gorisse says to himself “appalled“.”Yesterday I went to make almost 700 kilos [de pâte à gaufre]. For nothing. Those who are leaving today are perfect, but for the rest … ” Tired by these reversals, the showman confides no longer sleeping. Because of the epidemic, he has not paid for himself since the last Christmas market, in December 2019.
Normally, the state is made to protect us. We pay taxes to be protected and so that we can continue to live. Two years ago, the chalets were closed to us because of the yellow vests. This year, the prefecture asks us again to close and says it is to protect us. No, it must be the other way around! They must be there to protect us so that we can open!
Jean-François Gorisse, waffle seller
“I do not understand why the authorities tell us that these ten chalets are serious for people, continues the trader. You can walk around town, we do all our shopping, we go everywhere. But our ten cabins seemingly pose a risk. There is a moment, me, I take it very badly: I am a citizen, I pay my taxes, I pay the RSI, I have worked for 25 years in my company, “ he emphasizes.
Two weights, two measures
Françoise Gaudefroy points to the contrast with shopping centers and supermarkets on the outskirts, where frequentation remains high. “JI think there is still less risk in the city center and in the open air, “ she says.
We are given the impression of having several countries in one country, that really shocks me. (…) We notice that people want to see us and we are told: “sir, you are not one of the desirable people”. I no longer feel safe in this country. If France were in Africa, plagued by epidemics of Ebola, Zika, malaria, cholera, what would we have done? Would we all be locked in jails?
Jean-François Gorisse, waffle seller
Terrified, I didn’t think that in December we were going to go through all this again. Open Wednesday, closed this Saturday evening. “The organization has done everything so that we can open and we are delighted: we have such a great need to meet people, to start doing something.