PARIS – As the sun went down, their partying got into full flow, with an unwanted guest: the coronavirus.
An outbreak among 18- to 25-year-olds at a seaside resort on the Brittany coast is crystallizing fears that the virus is flaring again in France, on the back of vacationers throwing COVID-19 caution to the summer winds.
With 72 infections by Wednesday — mostly among that age group — uncovered in a week of furious contact tracing, the cluster on the Quiberon peninsula was thought to have originated with a supermarket summer worker who partied with others at a nightspot.
It is becoming a textbook case of the virus pitting generations against each other.
The government's top regional official, a former soldier and intelligence officer in his 50s, hasn't minced his words in decrying the “irresponsibility of young people who are vacationing or living here, gathering in large numbers for festivities at night, ignoring the danger.”
The official, Patrice Faure, prefect of Brittany's Morbihan region, personally served a two-month closure order on a Quiberon discotheque, the Hacienda Cafe. Among the nightspots where now-infected people congregated, it skirted a national coronavirus ban on nightclubbing by converting itself into a late-night watering hole, blocking off its dance floor with tables and bar stools.
The owners told the regional newspaper Ouest-France that they urged patrons to wear masks but also noted: “They're young, on holiday or doing summer jobs, and they'd been drinking. They didn't listen.”
Although authorities insist the outbreak is under control, the peninsula that used to be a sardine-fishing hub has become a flashpoint for fears that France is going backward in the epidemic that has infected more than 185,000 and killed at least 30,200 in the country. Infection rates are creeping up and authorities warn that people are disregarding pleas to use common sense as millions revel in the country's July-August break.