BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Every night since Saturday, people in the small French city of Perpignan open their windows to cheer for the medical workers who are fighting against the spread of the novel coronavirus.
At precisely 8 p.m., the French homebound residents lean out of their windows to yell, cheer, whistle, bang pots and pans, and join the roaring WWII-era air raid sirens for five minutes. The loud show of solidarity is meant to encourage first responders and medical workers on the front lines.
Perpignan’s mayor instituted a curfew of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Saturday, March 21 after the fifth person in the city of 100,000 died from the coronavirus. There is only one hospital in the city, which is near the Spanish-French border.
Americans Brenda and Lawrence Cox are studying French in Perpignon and recorded the cheers from their open window.
Brenda Cox said that after hearing so much negative news, she looks forward to the moment at 8 p.m. each night when they open their windows and join in the cheers of their neighbors. From her window, she sees many of the same faces each night.
“There’s a grandfather on the first level and you can just see his little grandson in the corner and he’s cheering, too,” she said.
“You forget that there’s a whole community out here, but when you’re cheering together, it feels good. I cried the first night,” Brenda Cox added.
Her husband Lawrence Cox described the scene as heartwarming.
“There’s a huge amount of noise for about five minutes, all to honor first responders and medical people. It’s a spirit of solidarity, or in French, ‘fraternite’. It feels like we’re in a movie,” he said.
As of Monday, March 23 there were 78 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and a total of six deaths. The city is currently considered to be a “cluster” of the coronavirus, and will soon be opening two new specialized consultation centers.
The single hospital in Perpignan is now moving some patients to other medical facilities to make room for more coronavirus patients.