- An island chain off the coast of Marseille, southern France, was historically used to quarantine sick people during past epidemics.
- The Frioul archipelago was used to house people suffering from illnesses like the plague or yellow fever to protect the mainland, according to the Associated Press.
- Now, the 150 residents on the island are isolated because of the coronavirus lockdown.
- Take a look at what the island looks like now.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Hundreds of years ago, France’s Frioul archipelago served as a quarantine centre for epidemics. Now the coronavirus pandemic is isolating the island chain’s 150 residents, making them relive the past, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
The four islands, located 2 miles off the southern port city of Marseille, to house people suffering from illnesses like the plague and yellow fever. This was an effort to protect the French mainland from deadly outbreaks.
In 1720, sick crews during the Great Plague of Marseille went to the archipelago and then again in 1821 during a yellow fever epidemic.
Now, the islands’ 150 residents – mostly retirees – are feeling isolated once more as they can’t leave during the coronavirus lockdown, the AP reported.
Here’s what it looks like.
Frioul is currently home to 150 residents — mostly retirees — and attracts tourists visiting from the mainland. But no tourists have visited the island since the French government imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 17.
The islands and French mainland are connected by ferry, which used to transport some 3,000 visitors during the high season. Now only Frioul residents are allowed to use it.
Like on the mainland, police are closely monitoring the lockdown. On Frioul, officers are patrolling by air and sea to make sure nobody breaks the rules.
Patrick Tellier — the only nurse on the archipelago — runs a clinic for the islands’ small population of retirees out of a small boat, with pills and blood samples stuffed inside.
During the coronavirus, Tellier has mainly been talking to patients via video calls. Face-to-face visits require him wearing a mask and gloves, and his supply is limited.
Ironically, Tellier’s home is on the site of a former hospital that treated quarantined sailors in the 1800s and 1900s.
The island has managed to test all those suspected of having the coronavirus. So far, of those people have tested negative.
The island’s only food shop is usually only open during the summer for tourists but its owner, Anthony Fabre, decided to keep it open during the coronavirus so locals don’t have to travel into the mainland for food.
“We are a closed-off population. I can give people the supplies they need so they don’t have to go to the mainland and risk getting sick,” Fabre told the AP.
He added: “If you think about it, we are just reliving our past. We had the yellow fever exactly 200 years ago.”
“We are not experiencing quite the same quarantine as Frioul has seen in its past, but people are definitely afraid of this virus,” Tellier told the AP. Now, seagulls are the islands’ only visitors.