French students protest over ‘despair’ of isolation

Students protested across France on Wednesday over their conditions during Covid-19 restrictions, saying they were being pushed to the brink of despair by solitude and financial uncertainty.

French students protest over 'despair' of isolation
A lone student at the library of the University of Bordeaux, southwestern France, on January 20th. Photo: AFP

With President Emmanuel Macron due to speak with worried university students on Thursday, they demanded a return to full face-to-face teaching suspended due to the pandemic.

For the time being, only first-year students will be permitted to attend classroom tutorials, from January 25th but in half-groups.

Hundreds protested in Paris, brandishing slogans including “incompetent politicians, students in agony” and “everyone hates online classes”.


Melanie Luce, president of France's national student union UNEF, said classes should be opened for “all students” even if reduced numbers meant doing classes twice over and recruiting more teachers.

“We think the government does not understand the magnitude of the situation,” she added, saying the protests aimed to “defend the life conditions and studies of the students”. 

Some 250 took to the streets in the western city of Rennes, where Josselin, 21, said he was “in despair at the solitude”.

“I am all alone with myself in my 18m2 (194 square feet). Today I received my first lesson in PDF and was told 'get by with that'. There are teachers who no longer even make the effort to make video conferences”.

UNEF has said that a €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) emergency plan is needed for students, urging an immediate raise in grants and help to pay for accommodation.

Macron will Thursday meet students at Paris Saclay university to discuss their situation, with government sources saying new measures to help students could be announced.

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Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

As France launches its autumn vaccine campaign, almost half of those eligible for the second booster jab in France have already received it. This has left some wondering whether they could qualify for a third booster, using the new dual-strain vaccines.

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Question: I’m in my 70s and I had my second booster back in the summer but now I see that the new dual-strain vaccines are available – should I be getting an extra booster with the new type of vaccine?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd includes newly authorised dual-strain vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

It will be followed by the seasonal flu vaccination campaign in mid October.

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

In France, about 6.3 million people have received a second booster dose, “or 41 percent of the eligible population,” said the Directorate General of Health (DGS) to Ouest France.

Currently only those in high risk groups are eligible for a second booster shot, including pregnant women, the elderly those with medical conditions or carers – find the full list here.

As almost half of the eligible population have already received a fourth vaccine, many are wondering whether they will be eligible for a fifth (or third booster) in order to access the new dual-strain vaccine.  

According to Virginie, a representative from HAS – France’s health authority – the organisation “no longer thinks in terms of doses for high-risk people and immunocompromised patients.”

Specifically, the HAS recommends that a new injection be given – and if possible one of the dual-strain vaccines – “regardless of the number of injections received up to now”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

However, French health authorities specified that the additional booster should “respect the minimum recommended time between two doses.”

“This depends based on your profile – for people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes or long-term care units (USLD) and those who are immunocompromised, the wait-time is three months between jabs. For the others, the delay is set at six months.”

For those who have already been infected by Covid-19, the HAS recommends that if you are eligible for a second (or third booster) that the additional dose “is still recommended, with a minimum delay of three months after infection.”