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EDUCATION

France reimposes mask rules in 39 areas as Covid cases rise

Faced with a slow but steady rise in the number of Covid cases, France has reimposed rules on face masks for primary school pupils in 39 areas of the country.

Primary-age school children in a class wearing facemasks to protect against the spread of the Covid-19 virus
Photo: Pascal Guyot / AFP

The rule on wearing masks in the classroom had been listed in recent weeks in many areas that had low Covid rates, but now 39 départements will be added to the list of 22 départements already exceeding the alert threshold to trigger additional school health measures, taking the total to 61.

The rule will be imposed when schools return from the Toussaint holidays on Monday.

Cases have risen since October 10th, when just 17 départements were above the alert threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 people.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal, speaking after the weekly Council of Ministers meeting at the Elysée Palace, said that the stricter measures would be imposed in schools in certain départements where cases had risen above 50 per 100,000.

The affected parts of the country will be officially revealed when the latest figures are published on Thursday evening.

These two maps, from Covidtracker’s Guillaume Rozier, show where cases are above 50 per 100,000, and where levels may be a week from now.

“From next week …  in the départements where the incidence rate has unfortunately stabilised above 50 per 100,000 inhabitants (…) the mask will again be made compulsory for children of schools concerned,” Attal said in his weekly press briefing.

“As we can alleviate measures of constraint, we will do it,” he added. “Obviously this principle is valid in both directions and as soon as the situation deteriorates, unfortunately, we must reactivate a certain number of measures,” he specified.

In total, 79 of France’s 101 départments had lowered restrictions in primary schools before the holidays in line with an improving health situation. Pupils in collège and lycée carried on wearing masks in the classroom.

For adults, the mask rules remain the same – masks are compulsory on all public transport and in any indoor public space which is not a health pass venue – this affects primarily shops, but masks remain compulsory in many workplaces.

Local authorities can also impose additional mask rules, last week authorities in Loire-Atlantique reimposed rules on mask-wearing outdoors in 68 communes.

Failure to abide by mask rules can net you a €135 fine.

Meanwhile, the number of people being hospitalised with Covid-19 is heading up again, Attal confirmed, but he said that France is experiencing a ‘rise’ in cases rather than a ‘surge’.

And he urged those eligible for a third ‘booster’ dose of vaccine to book an appointment. “Each booster dose is an additional protection against [Covid cases rising in] winter,” he said.

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EDUCATION

REVEALED: France’s new holiday dates for the 2022/23 school year

School in France is far from out for summer but the dates have been released for the 2022/23 school year complete with holidays and "bridges". Take a look so you can plan your holidays.

REVEALED: France's new holiday dates for the 2022/23 school year

It’s the time of year children dislike most – as is traditional, rentrée in France is on September 1st this year, a Thursday, a day after teachers return to the classroom to prepare for the new term.

The 2022-23 school year then ends – 36 school weeks later – after classes on Friday, July 7th, 2023, later than in recent years and just a week before the fête nationale on July 14th.

 “My class will be almost empty the last week, families will have gone on vacation, especially if the tourist prices are considered out of vacation, therefore less expensive,” a  teacher in Paris told Le Parisien.

Another was concerned about the weather at that time of year. “The longer we get into the year, the hotter it gets. They already forecast 35C on May 18th, so on July 8th, I can’t imagine the heat in class,” she said.

School holidays in France have long been divided into three zones. Summer, autumn and Christmas holidays are taken at the same time across the whole of the country, but the winter and spring breaks are staggered according to which zone a school is in.

The educational zones in France are here 

Image: Service-Public.fr

The Ministry of Education has published a calendar planner for the 2022/23 school holidays on its website, showing the holiday periods for all three zones in France.

Image: ministère de l’éducation nationale et de la jeunesse et des sports

The calendar is available to download as a pdf, here

Notably, pupils in Zone A schools – those in Besançon, Dijon, Grenoble, Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand, Limoges, Poitiers and Bordeaux – face a longer-than-usual summer term, a two-and-a-half month stretch from April 24th to July 8th. This is a longer term than is usually recommended by education experts – longer even than the 10-and-a-half weeks at the same time last year for two zones, which was described as “a marathon” by both families and teachers.

There will be some breaks in that long run of school weeks, however. May Day and VE Day are both on Mondays next year, Ascension is on Thursday, May 18th, with schools traditionally ‘bridging’ the Friday, and Pentecôte holiday is on Monday, May 28th.

On the flipside, pupils in the same zone also get the shortest term on record in the next school year. They return after the Christmas holiday on January 3rd, and break-up for the winter holidays on February 4th.

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