France on Monday announced an easing of Covid rules for schools as record-high case numbers shut down thousands of classes and sparked concern among parents and teachers.
Prime Minister Jean Castex told France 2 television that more than 10,000 classes — two percent of the total — had to be cancelled because of coronavirus outbreaks, but that the government would not “shut down the schools or the country”.
France has suffered more than 125,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, and on Monday recorded 93,896 new coronavirus cases as the highly contagious Omicron variant drives up daily infections to record highs.
Under the first change, from Tuesday, parents will no longer be obliged to pick up their child immediately for Covid testing if he or she is a contact case of a virus sufferer. Instead, they can wait until the end of the school day.
Three self-tests, performed on the day of contact, plus days 2 and 4, will be deemed sufficient for contact cases rather than testing at an officially approved site, with the parents signing a single certificate to confirm all three results.
You can find a template for such an attestation here – but you should change the title to: Réalisation d’autotests and provide the dates for all the dates when your child took self-dates.
Prior to the new rules, pupils first had to take a PCR or antigen test immediately after learning that they had come into contact with an infected classmate. They then had to take self-tests on days 2 and 4 following the initial test. Parents had to sign individual attestations declaring that the self-tests had been carried out.
The test kits, available from pharmacies, will be free.
One teaching assistant checking test results outside a Paris junior school on Tuesday said: “We are totally confused between the rules of the last protocol and then new one just announced. For the children it is awful to have to do all these tests.”
France’s biggest primary teachers’ union the SNUipp-FSU, which denounced the “indescribable mess” in the school system and “a strong feeling of abandonment and anger among the staff”, has called for a national strike on Thursday.
Most of the country’s other teaching unions have signed up to the proposal.
SNUipp-FSU secretary-general Guislaine David was unimpressed by Castex’s announcement.
“It displays total contempt for the teachers who are on the ground. This will not at all reduce the number of contaminations at school,” she said.
“On the contrary, it will multiply them tenfold, because a certificate on the honour of the parents is now sufficient.”
More than 100,000 people across France protested Saturday over what they say are government plans to further restrict the rights of the unvaccinated.