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.
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.
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.