The driver of a British coach that crashed in northern France as it was taking schoolchildren home from a skiing trip was indicted on Monday for manslaughter, a prosecutor said.

"/> The driver of a British coach that crashed in northern France as it was taking schoolchildren home from a skiing trip was indicted on Monday for manslaughter, a prosecutor said.

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ACCIDENT

Coach driver charged with manslaughter

The driver of a British coach that crashed in northern France as it was taking schoolchildren home from a skiing trip was indicted on Monday for manslaughter, a prosecutor said.

The 47-year-old man, who was driving the coach that crashed in the early hours of Sunday, killing a teacher and injuring 23 passengers, was also charged with inflicting “involuntary injuries,” prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny added.

The driver is “free to return to Britain, but must fulfil certain conditions,” the prosecutor said. 

He will have “to inform the judge of any travel outside Britain (and) is forbidden from contacting victims or their relatives,” De Rocquigny said, adding that he is also forbidden from driving in France. 

The driver, one of two, told the examining magistrate he could not remember how the accident took place, de Rocquigny said.

The driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel, sending the coach veering off a motorway and into a ditch as the British school party was returning from a skiing trip in Italy.

“Witnesses driving close to the coach saw the vehicle swerving steadily towards the ditch, and the speedometer shows unjustifiably high speeds in the nine minutes before the accident,” de Rocquigny told AFP.

The driver has denied falling asleep, but has acknowledged that he may have “dozed off,” the prosecutor added.

The coach was carrying 29 children from a school in Alvechurch, just south of Birmingham, and 20 adults including teachers, ski instructors and the two drivers.

Teacher Peter Rippington, 59, was killed in the crash, and six people, including a 13-year-old girl, were seriously hurt.

The teenager has been transferred from Reims to a Paris hospital where she remains in critical condition, the prosecutor’s office said.

About a dozen other people were still in hospital on Monday, while the others have returned home.

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EDUCATION

School closures rise in France as government relaxes rules for parents

The number of school and class closures in France has increased, the education minister reported on Wednesday, but the government has relaxed the rules for parents sending children back to class.

School closures rise in France as government relaxes rules for parents
Children over 11 in France have to wear masks during the school day. Photo: AFP

A total of 81 establishments and 2,100 individual classes have closed after discovering Covid-19 cases on their premises.

The number was a rise on the figures last week when 28 schools and 524 individual classes were closed.

“We have around 1,200 new Covid cases among pupils compared with last week,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told the LCI channel on Wednesday.

“We shut down a class as soon as there are three cases,” he said.

Blanquer noted that the closures represent just a small fraction of the 60,000 schools across France, calling the beginning of the new school year “the best possible given the health crisis.”

 

French officials have warned nonetheless that new restrictions might be required to stem a worrying increase in coronavirus cases since August.

IN NUMBERS: How fast are France's Covid-19 rates increasing?

No more official sick notes

Despite the surge in cases registered in schools, children with Covid-19 symptoms will no longer need to provide a doctor's sick note (une attestation) to return to class, Blanquer told BFMTV on Tuesday evening.

Instead, parents will need to fill in what in French is called an attestation sur l'honneur, a written document signed by the parent, stating either that the child tested negative for the virus, or a doctor has ruled out that the child has Covid-19.

READ ALSO: The vocabulary you need to fill in French forms (including the coronavirus 'attestation')

This followed a series of complaints from medical establishments across the country that they were overwhelmed with demands for sick notes and that parents were sending children with very light symptoms such as runny noses to get checked up.

According to the new rules, children who are identified as contact cases must get tested for the virus seven days after their last contact with the confirmed case. If the result comes back negative, the child can go back to class provided that a parent has provided a signed written attestation saying that the test came back negative. No proof for the test result will be required. 

A child with Covid-19 symptoms can also return to class if this attestation indicates that a doctor has ruled out the virus as cause for the symptoms, without providing any proof for the medical appointment.

The new health protocol will be updated and published on the education ministry's website shortly.

READ ALSO: The French school vocab parents need

 
'Chomage partiel'

Parents affected by the school closures can access to the partial unemployment scheme bolstered by the government at the beginning of the lockdown in March to help businesses foot their employees' salaries to prevent mass layoffs.

Those concerned will “benefit from income reimbursement from the first day of their stoppage of work, and at the latest until the end of the period of isolation,” the health ministry said in a statement.

Only one parent per household will be eligible for the help scheme, and only if they can document that their child's school or nursery closed down due to Covid-19, or that their child has been identified as a contact-case.

Higher education 

Late Tuesday, the University of Montpellier in southern France said it had suspended classes at its medical school after some 60 students tested positive after a party.

The University of Rennes in western France also suspended classes for second- and third-year medical students this week after 83 tested positive.

The government has placed 82 of the country's 101 departments on red alert, and officials in Bordeaux and Marseille this week tightened restrictions on public gatherings and retirement home visits after seeing a surge in new Covid-19 cases. 

READ ALSO: Why are Bordeaux and Marseille facing tougher Covid-19 restrictions but not Paris

 
 
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