Parents in France won’t be forced to send children back to school after lockdown

Parents will not be forced to send their children back to school when they reopen after May 11th, French President Emmanuel Macron has decided.

Parents in France won't be forced to send children back to school after lockdown
Photo: AFP

“It will be parents who get the final word,” Macron said on Thursday, according to France Télévisions.

The president made the announcement during a meeting with local officials and mayors, set up consult on the government's strategy to unwind the nationwide strict lockdown.

From May 11th, schools in France will gradually open and workers will begin to go back to work. But the president now said that parents would not have to send their child back to class if they worried about their health.

EXPLAINED: What we know about France's plan to reopen schools

Some classes will start before others and local officials given discretion over reopening.

The government has said supplies of masks and hand gel for pupils and teachers should also be in place before a school can reopen.

But many parents and teachers were still worried that it was too early, and that children would be both at the risk of getting the coronavirus themselves and to spread the virus at home.

The French government had been keen to reopen schools in order that vulnerable and disadvantaged children, many of whom have been unable to take advance of home-education offers, can be brought back into education.

READ ALSO 'It's too soon' – parents in France worry about sending children back to school in May

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Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones.