The gestation of the current infection boom was plainly visible in July, August and September. Visitors packed France’s summer watering holes after the government encouraged tourism, anxious also not to get crosswise of the sacred ritual that is the French summer holiday.
A wave of indignation greeted mild suggestions that workers should give up some vacation days to compensate for those lost during the lockdown.
In Paris, as they returned from these hot spots, young people spilled from crowded bars onto the sidewalks in the city’s bohemian eastern districts and massed along the banks of the Seine. There was no social distancing and few masks. France thought the virus was tamed.
“There was certainly a lack of understanding in a part of the population that didn’t believe in a second wave,” said Renaud Piarroux, an epidemics specialist at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. “Some in the younger population abandoned the necessary precautions,” he said, like wearing a mask and social distancing.
Before Mr. Macron’s announcement on Wednesday, several health experts predicted a severe reckoning in the coming weeks.