Covid-19: What you need to know about France’s new health rules in schools

Covid-19: What you need to know about France's new health rules in schools
Children aged over 11 must wear masks in French schools. Photo: AFP
Despite spiralling Covid-19 rates and cities toughening rules to slow down the spread, the French government has decided to relax health rules in schools. The changes entered into effect today.

After consulting with the Scientific Council set up to advise the government on its Covid-19 strategy, the French government last week decided to raise the bar for closing schools after detecting Covid-19 on the premises.

“If only one child tests positive, the rest of children will still be able to go to school,” French Health Minister Olivier Véran said last week during a live televised speech to the nation where he also warned about spiralling Covid-19 rates across the country.
 
Véran said the risk of children infecting each other or their parents was so low that shutting down schools after detecting one case of the virus did not make sense.
 
“It is out of the question that we send all children home, or even close entire schools at the first alarm,” he said.

 

What will change?

The new health protocol, available on the education ministry's website (link here), outlines the procedure that is to be set in motion if a pupil is identified as a Covid-19 case;

  • The pupil in question is to stay home from school for at least seven days after receiving their test results. The exact number of days is to be decided by a doctor
  • The school director must inform the regional health agency straight after a case is confirmed at the school
  • The school must make a list of pupils and school personnel that could be at risk of being a contact case of the sick pupil. This list must be validated by the regional health agency
  • Instead of closing down the entire class or the whole school, only the people featuring on the list must self-isolate for seven days, while the rest of the school can continue as normal
  • Teachers on the list must test negative for Covid-19 seven days after their last contact with the sick pupil before returning to the school
  • Children on the list are not required to take a Covid-19 test, but they need to self-isolate for seven days before going back to class

READ MORE: These are the Covid-19 health rules in place in French schools

Why are they doing this?

Only two weeks into the new semester, 81 schools and 2,100 individual classes had closed down.

The education minister has repeated several times that the government's goal is to ensure the school year becomes “as normal as possible,” after French children spent months away from the classroom.

Even with the virus spreading at an accelerated pace across the entire French territory, the government has decided that the price of closing down schools and keeping children at home is bigger than keeping schools open.

“We must not exaggerate the risk that children face. It’s essential that they continue to go to school, that is more important,” Professor Jean-Daniel Lelièvre, head of epidemiology at the Henri Mondor Hospital, told Le Parisien.

Read more about the health rules in place in French schools here.


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