March 19 (Business Insider) – The novel coronavirus has assailed more than 100 countries, infecting over 121,000 people and causing over 4,300 deaths. And while the outbreak sparked in China, Europe has not been spared: Italy is on lockdown, cases are escalating in Spain and France, and German leaders are bracing for nearly 70% of the country’s population to contract the illness. Tourist haunts, shops, universities, and entire towns are deserted.
But the mounting fear of this contagion didn’t stop people in western France from setting a Guinness World Record on March 7.
Some 3,500 people dressed up as Smurfs — in blue and white outfits, with painted faces, and toting the characters’ trademark pointed hats — gathered in the town of Landerneau. Their goal was to set a record for the largest-ever gathering of the blue, human-like Belgian comic characters.
“We must not stop living,” Patrick Leclerc, the town’s mayor told Agence France-Presse. “It was the chance to say that we are alive.”
Revelers, young and old, flocked to a parking lot, where they danced in conga lines to music played by a DJ who also resembled a Smurf, The Washington Post said.
“There’s no risk, we’re Smurfs,” one attendee told AFP. “Yes, we’re going to Smurferize the coronavirus.”
This rally was hosted one day before France became the latest nation to ban public gatherings of more than 1,000 people. Switzerland and the Catalonia region of Spain are enforcing the same measure in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Leclerc said that the Smurf festival was a welcome break amid the “ambient gloom,” according to AFP.
“We got our costumes from all the shops in the area and we figured that a bit of fun would do us all good at the moment,” he said.
As of Wednesday, France has reported 1,784 cases and 33 deaths. Italy has been the worst-hit nation outside Asia, with 10,149 patients and 631 deaths.
And Italian media wasn’t in favor of the fun that was had.
The La Repubblica newspaper characterized the rally as “potentially a very dangerous viral bomb,” and the Il Secolo XIX newspaper deemed Saturday’s gathering an “irresponsible move” that put people at heightened risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus, AFP said.