Home LATEST NEWS Back to class: the French puzzle | Coronavirus

Back to class: the French puzzle | Coronavirus


Since his children were recently declared contact cases (a person who has been in contact with a person tested positive for COVID-19), his family has experienced the procedure imposed by the French government on all children in a class where one case of infection is discovered.

A self-test as soon as we are aware that there is a contact, and after, another self-test two days later, and another self-test four days later. In the meantime he can go back to school, she explains.

These self-tests, which are usually paid for, are distributed free of charge to parents of contact students. To ensure a return to class, parents must also provide a sworn statement stating that the screening result is negative.

This procedure has only been in place for a few days. On Monday, Prime Minister Jean Castex made the announcement of a new protocol after the discontent over the measures first imposed for the start of the January 3 school year.

Our goal is to keep schools as open as possible, because we all know that is in the best interests of children.

A quote from Jean Castex, French Prime Minister

During the first week of 2022, a child considered a contact case had to undergo an antigen test or PCR instead.

Given the tens of thousands of cases reported daily in France, parents and children had to arm themselves with patience to access pharmacies or laboratories in front of which sometimes impressive queues formed.

French people are waiting to be tested in Nantes.

Pharmacies, like this one in Nantes, were very busy at the start of January.

Photo: Reuters / STEPHANE MAHE

The work is a bit scattered, says Éloïse, about the impact of this policy on the schedule of some parents.

The grumbling of teachers

While it was well received by some parents, the relaxation announced by the government has not calmed the discontent expressed for weeks by many French teachers.

It’s really the mess, launches the Parisian teacher Maylis Jacquin Turlay, who wants the State assumes its responsibilities and secures schools.

Our COVID-19 file: what you need to know

Teachers’ associations as well as certain experts are demanding greater preventive measures to limit contamination in schools, such as the installation of CO2 sensors in classrooms and the massive distribution of FFP2 (N95) masks to teachers.

Evoking a government contempt, the SNUipp union, the main group of primary school teachers, called for mobilization in Paris and in several cities across the country on Thursday.

The current protocol not only fails to protect students, staff and their families, it also completely disrupts the school.

A quote from SNUipp union press release

We prefer to assume these difficulties and the criticisms today on a protocol and rules that must adapt, rather than saying that the easiest not to be criticized is to close the schools., replied the spokesman of the French government Gabriel Attal, defending the Minister of National Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer.

The French Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer.

The Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer is the subject of numerous criticisms from teachers for his management of the pandemic.

Photo: Reuters / POOL

As of January 6, three days after the start of the winter school year, the French Ministry of Education counted more than 47,000 infections out of 12 million students. More than 5,000 teachers were also infected.

In this context, the SNUipp union is also calling for a return to the preventive closure of classes when a positive case is detected there. This measure was applied in previous phases of the pandemic, leading to the closure of up to 11,000 classes in April 2021.

What we are asking for is not the closure of schools, it is working conditions, specifies teacher Maylis Jacquin Turlay, who is not unionized.

Aware that the situation is complicated for teachers, some parents want classes to remain open.

I work, I have no one to keep them, it’s a bit difficult, explains Annie, met with her son and daughter in Saint-Brieuc, Brittany.

Clearly, this is a question that arises, shouldn’t we close for a week or two? I do not know, adds Éloïse, who explains that after completing a first round of screening, her son has again been declared a contact case and must prepare to undergo three more tests over the next few days.

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