Frenchman fined for crossing mountains during coronavirus lockdown to buy cigarettes

A man was rescued by helicopter after trekking across the Pyrenees to buy cigarettes. (PGHM Rescue Service)

A helicopter rescue team airlifted a man who had attempted to walk to Spain from France to buy cigarettes during a nationwide lockdown.

A local mountain rescue service in the Pyrenees said the man was found "exhausted, shivering, cold and lost".

Despite his ordeal, he was fined 135 euros (£119) for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules.

"We remind you once more. STAY AT HOME," the regional police tweeted.

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The rescue service said the man, from the town of Perpignan – about 15 miles from the Spanish border – had initially set off by car but was turned back at a checkpoint.

He then decided to attempt the journey on foot along a hiking path over the mountains.

However, he fell into a stream and brambles and got lost before contacting the rescue crew for help.

Rescuers said the man was quickly located and airlifted by helicopter to a security facility back in Perpignan.

France has been in total lockdown since 17 March, with all non-essential trips from home banned and people unable to leave their homes without a signed and dated permission form.

Among the sanctioned reasons for going out are to shop for necessities, visit a doctor, walk a dog or take brief exercise.

On 27 March the initial 15-day stay-at-home order was extended to 15 April, with the prime minister Édouard Philippe saying last week that a second extension would be likely to follow.   

"It is likely that we are not going to see an end to confinement that would happen in one move everywhere and for everyone," Philippe said, when asked about the time frame for lifting the lockdown.

He said any decision "will take into account, above all, the public health considerations".

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