Some neighbors, like Claudine Le Buhan, 84, are old enough to remember WWII.

Locked down elderly in rural French village find some parallels with World War II

Updated 1:20 PM ET, Fri March 27, 2020

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Editor's note: Jim Bittermann is CNN's Senior International Correspondent based in Paris. He has lived there for 40 years.

(CNN)The streets of Paris are empty. The theaters and cinemas are dark. The cafes and restaurants shuttered. Museums closed. The parks and playgrounds deserted. The government has so ordered. Everyone you meet eyes you with suspicion. Is this the person who is going to infect me? Am I going to infect this person? Above all, the atmosphere here is very, very sad.

In the countryside, people typically greet each other with "les bises," the tradition of kissing each other on the cheek. Now they stand awkwardly two meters apart and talk loudly. The coronavirus outbreak is making people nervous and anxious and ready for any human, if touchless, contact.
There are the physical tragedies of the illness and its deaths, but there are the psychological ones too. For France, these are awful times. This is a supremely social country, but now social distancing is the rule of the day. So many French obsessions are related to getting together and spending time with each other... the quest for shorter work weeks, early retirement, more vacation time, all stem in part from a desire to increase time spent with friends and family.
Neighbors Alain de Gourdon and his family out for a walk while social distancing. De Gourdon's daughter holds up the paperwork needed.
Unlike some countries, where people often go out to put down as much food and drink in as short a time as possible, here making a drink or meal last as long as possible is the norm. You must have time to talk, laugh, sympathize and empathize. It's part of the culture.
This virus has put an end to that. Psychiatrists on television are warning about an increase in case of self-harm linked to the government-mandated lockdown and academics are advising how to use social media to help with mental health. The head of the Fren