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France to make face masks obligatory for all pupils aged 6 and over

The French Prime Minister announced on Thursday the face mask rules for school pupils would be tightened meaning children aged six and over would now have to wear them.

France to make face masks obligatory for all pupils aged 6 and over
AFP

Up until now face masks had been mandatory for pupils aged over 11, so those attending colleges (secondary schools) and lycées (high schools).

But the government has extended the rule to all pupils in primary schools. Children attending pre-school (écoles maternelles) will not have to wear the mask.

The measure was announced by PM Jean Castex a day after President Emmanuel Macron declared a new lockdown in France starting from Friday.

Castex told lawmakers in parliament that new efforts were needed “to protect all our children, teachers and parents.”

In contrast to the lockdown in spring the president and the government has decided to keep schools open, albeit with tighter sanitary rules in place.

“We have learnt the lesson from the first wave,” said the Prime Minister.

“Last spring massively increased the risk of school drop-outs, particularly among those in deprived areas,” he said.

“From Monday, when children return to school, the sanitary protocol will be made stricter. The requirement to wear a face mask will be extended to primary school children over the age of six.”

On Thursday France's Minister of Education added more details on the stricter protocol for schools.

He confirmed measures to limit the movement of pupils around the school would be taken and staggered lunch times and break times would be introduced so pupils do not all sit down together.

The disinfection and cleaning of schools would be more rigorous.

Blanquer added that 27 schools out of 61,500 in France were currently closed due to Covid-19 outbreaks, which the minister said confirmed that schools were not places where the virus spread easily.

“A school is a secure place,” he said.

 

READ MORE: What are the new rules for the second coronavirus lockdown in France?

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COVID-19

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.

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