By Ardee Napolitano
PARIS (Reuters) - Boarded-up windows outside flagship branches of department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps bore testimony on Saturday to the impact of a COVID-19 lockdown in Paris.
On what would usually be a busy weekend for Christmas shopping, only handfuls of people were out on Boulevard Haussmann, where the stores are located.
"It's sad. We are outside Galeries Lafayette and everything is closed," said one would-be shopper, Emmanuelle Tiger. "They've put up (shop window) lights. That's great, but we don't feel the Christmas spirit at all."
Under the lockdown, in force since the end of October in the capital and other large cities, people must stay indoors apart from trips to buy food or other essential goods, or for a brief hour of exercise.
France has the seventh-highest COVID-19 toll in the world, with almost 44,000 fatalities, and the government has said it may extend the lockdown beyond Dec. 1, when it is due to end, if infection rates do not fall.
"Our fight against the epidemic involves all of us and the next few days will be decisive," wrote President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter on Saturday.
Some on the Boulevard were hopeful the measures would be eased in time for Christmas.
"I think they will open one or two weeks before... and we'll do our Christmas shopping then," said Aymeric Lenain.
(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by John Stonestreet)