A nursing home on the outskirts of Lyon where staff locked down together with their residents for 47 days and nights have had their quarantine lifted after everyone at the facility tested negative for coronavirus.
Valerie Martin, who runs the Vilanova care home in Corbas, said on Monday that she and her staff decided at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis that they would stick together as the disease swept through communities outside.
"I said, ‘No. Not mine. My residents still have so much to live for,'" Martin recalled, adding: "I don't want this virus to kill them when they have been through so much."
As a result, Martin said she slept in her office throughout the quarantine while the rest of the staff slept on mattresses on the floors of the facility.
A total of 29 of her 50 staff volunteered to take part in the collective quarantine, and 12 staff members stayed for the full duration.
Leaving the facility on Monday amid honking car horns, Martin said: "We succeeded. Every day, every hour, was a win."
There were four deaths recorded among the 106 residents at the Vilanova during lockdown, but Martin said these were not believed to be due to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, more than 9,000 people have died in other care homes across France after testing positive for the virus.
"It was tough," caregiver Vanessa Roberts said, before recalling moments of "total joy, getting together in the evenings, fooling around, tossing water bombs at each other."
The son of a 95-year-old resident said Vilanova's staff made a "fantastic team", and praised them further for keeping his mother's spirits high on her birthday on April 17.
He added: "It saved lives. Perfect, perfect. I tip my hat to them."