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HEALTH

France bans the use of fabric face masks in schools over concerns about efficiency

From Monday children and teachers in French schools are no longer able to wear fabric face masks, but must instead wear 'category 1' surgical masks which offer a higher level of protection.

France bans the use of fabric face masks in schools over concerns about efficiency
From Monday, pupils must wear a surgical mask to school. Photo: AFP

Face masks for all children over the age of six have been compulsory in French schools since the start of the new school year in September, but from Monday, February 8th, there are stricter rules on the type of mask that can be worn.

Home-made or fabric masks will no longer be allowed and instead all pupils and staff must wear a 'category 1' mask – either a surgical mask or an FFP2 medical mask.

The new rule comes after France's health authorities in January said that fabric masks – which generally filter around 70 percent of particles – do not offer enough protection against the new variants of the Covid virus discovered in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.

The Haut conseil de la santé publique recommended on January 18th that people switch from fabric masks to the disposable blue surgical masks, which offer more than 90 percent particle filtration.

READ ALSO Fabric, surgical and filter – what are the rules on face masks in France?

 

For most of the population this remains a recommendation and not a rule, but from Monday it becomes the rule in schools and parents are asked to ensure that their children have masks that comply to category 1 standards.

Schools will distribute surgical masks to pupils who do not have them.

Also from Monday, schools have introduced a new protocol on class closures.

A class will now be automatically closed and all pupils sent home if one pupil is diagnosed with either the South African or the Brazilian variant of the virus. If one pupil is a contact case for a parent or sibling diagnosed with the variants, the class will also close.

MAP How the new variants of Covid are spreading in France

If a pupil is diagnosed with the UK variant or the non-variant form of Covid then the current rules on school closures apply – the class only closes if three or more pupils test positive for the virus.

In some parts of France schools began their two-week February holiday this week.

By the time all schools are back in March, Health Minister Olivier Véran says there will be “several thousands of tests per week” available for schools via saliva samples, rather than nasal swabs, in a procedure that is less invasive for children.

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STRIKES

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

General practitioners in France are planning another industrial action that will see doctors' offices closed as they call for better investment in community healthcare.

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

Primary care doctors in France announced plans to strike again in February, after walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.

The strike will take place on Tuesday, February 14th, and it comes just a few weeks ahead of the end-of-February deadline where France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.

Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out. 

Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.

Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

New concerns among GPs

According to reporting by La Depeche, in the upcoming strike in February primary care doctors will also be walking out over a new fear – the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.

Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.

However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.

Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.

Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more medical deserts, and for working conditions to be improved.

Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.

In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card.

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