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EDUCATION

France’s schools will reopen as planned after Easter break

France's schools will reopen as planned after the rescheduled Easter break, the government spokesman has confirmed.

France's schools will reopen as planned after Easter break
Photo: Denis Charlet/AFP

Schools in France were placed under a three-week closure – one week of distance learning and two weeks of rescheduled Easter holidays – as part of the ‘partial lockdown’ measures brought in at the start of April in an attempt to contain rapidly rising Covid case rates.

Announcing the closure at the start of April, president Emmanuel Macron said that primary schools would return on Monday, April 26th while secondary (collège) and high schools (lycée) would have one more week of distance learning before returning to in-person classes from Monday, May 3rd.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal on Thursday confirmed this timetable.

He said: “The nurseries will reopen and primary school students will return to their classes on April 26th. Collège students and lycée students too, from May 3rd.”

Lycées have the option of giving up to 50 percent of their teaching via distance learning, and it is up to individual institutions to decide how much in-person teaching they do.

Attal added: “For some, the return to class could be done in half-class groups.”

Normally Easter holiday dates vary by region, but the government changed the dates for some areas so that the whole country had the same two weeks of holiday this year.

The French government has always said that closing schools is a last resort and schools remained open during the second lockdown. The government hopes that the three-week closure will be enough to halt the spread of the virus in schools, so that they can remain open until the summer holidays.

Attal added that the number of self-testing kits and the new saliva tests for Covid will be increased for schools as they go back.

All other health precautions such as the compulsory wearing of masks for staff and children over the age of 6 remain in place.

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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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