On France's Frioul archipelago, there's an eerie sense that history is repeating itself.

The Mediterranean islands 4 kilometers off the teeming southern port city of Marseille served as a quarantine center during deadly epidemics in centuries past, helping to shield the French mainland from infection.

Now, amid the coronavirus lockdown and with no tourists, the few residents on the islands again feel cut off, left to fend largely for themselves.

"We are not experiencing quite the same quarantine as Frioul has seen in its past, but people are definitely afraid of this virus," said Patrick Tellier, the only nurse on the archipelago that once housed sick crews during the Great Plague of Marseille in 1720 and in 1821 during a yellow fever epidemic.

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The Frioul archipelago seen through the cabin of a cargo boat transporting food to Anthony Fabre's superette in Ratonneau island. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
The Frioul archipelago seen through the cabin of a cargo boat transporting food to Anthony Fabre's superette in Ratonneau island. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
Rusted fish sculptures hang on the wall of a closed restaurant in the port of Frioul. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
Rusted fish sculptures hang on the wall of a closed restaurant in the port of Frioul. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
Guillaume Savalier fishes from the port where his family is living in confinement on their sailboat to prevent spread of the disease. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
Guillaume Savalier fishes from the port where his family is living in confinement on their sailboat to prevent spread of the disease. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP

Only seagulls now visit the ancient bollards where quarantined ships used to moor. France's nationwide lockdown, which began March 17, has strangled the flow of tourists usually drawn by the archipelago's history, quaint beachfronts and wild hills.

Gulls atop the deserted Fort of Ratonneau in Frioul. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
Gulls atop the deserted Fort of Ratonneau in Frioul. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP

The islands' 150 residents, mostly retirees, are locked down on their moored-up boats or in apartments.

Frioul residents disembark a ferry boat with carts full of food and supplies in the port of Frioul. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
Frioul residents disembark a ferry boat with carts full of food and supplies in the port of Frioul. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP

Tellier runs a health care center for them out of a small sailboat. Pills and blood sample kits fill its nooks and crannies. Tellier lives with his dog in a small house built on the site of a former hospital that treated quarantined sailors in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Marseille coastline is pictured from inside an abandoned armory bunker in the Fort of Ratonneau. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
The Marseille coastline is pictured from inside an abandoned armory bunker in the Fort of Ratonneau. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP

Now retired, he spent his nursing career working in Africa and in Marseille, where he helped set up a medical center for underprivileged families.

Patrick Tellier rides his scooter towards the port of Frioul. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
Patrick Tellier rides his scooter towards the port of Frioul. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP

To eke out his limited supplies of protective gear, he uses video calls to dispense medical advice to islanders. He only wears a mask and gloves when meeting face-to-face with patients he fears might be infected with COVID-19. So far, all of the suspected cases later tested negative.

The ferry from Marseille that in high season carries 3,000 visitors a day is now restricted to residents only. Police patrol the island from the air and sea to enforce the coronavirus lockdown.

Seats lie empty on a deserted ferry boat in Marseille, southern France. Photo /Daniel Cole, AP
Seats lie empty on a deserted ferry boat in Marseille, southern France. Photo /Daniel Cole, AP

Anthony Fabre runs the archipelago's only food shop. The muscular former weightlifter usually opens the small supermarket only for the summer influx of tourists. But this year he didn't want islanders to be forced to travel to Marseille to get food during the pandemic.

"We are a closed-off population," he said. "I can give people the supplies they need so they don't have to go to the mainland and risk getting sick."

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"If you think about it, we are just reliving our past," he said. "We had the yellow fever exactly 200 years ago."

Anne Sansly gestures while telling a story about her dead husband in the cabin of her boat in the port of Frioul.Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
Anne Sansly gestures while telling a story about her dead husband in the cabin of her boat in the port of Frioul.Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
Patrick Tellier's medical bag and supplies in his boat in the port of Frioul. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
Patrick Tellier's medical bag and supplies in his boat in the port of Frioul. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
A Ghost building on Ratonneau island. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
A Ghost building on Ratonneau island. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
A Frioul resident walks her dog along the artificial mole connecting the Pomègues islands. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
A Frioul resident walks her dog along the artificial mole connecting the Pomègues islands. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
A ferry boat crew member stretches in the deserted Frioul port before departing for Marseille. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
A ferry boat crew member stretches in the deserted Frioul port before departing for Marseille. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
A boat sits atop a hill on the Frioul Archipelago. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP
A boat sits atop a hill on the Frioul Archipelago. Photo / Daniel Cole, AP

- AP