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Masks, tests and sports: France to relax Covid protocol in schools

The French Education Minister has updated Covid rules, with the most significant changes affecting primary school pupils, teachers and parents.

Masks, tests and sports: France to relax Covid protocol in schools
Covid protocoles in French schools are being relaxed. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

The French Education Minister, Jean Michel Blanquer, has announced a relaxation of Covid protocol in primary schools, which will come into effect when pupils return to class after the February holidays.

“We are in a situation to be able to proceed with easing,” he said. 

Primary schools will move from a level 3 covid protocol to level 2. This means:

  • Children will be allowed to mix with others of their own age group – rather than being confined to mixing with their own class;
  • Children will not have to wear masks while outside;
  • Inside sports are allowed once again (except for contact sports), even without a mask.

Middle schools and high schools are already on a Level 2 Covid protocol. 

Classes restart on February 21st for children in Zone B, on February 28th for children in Zone A and on March 7th for those in Zone C.  

A map shows France's different schooling zones.

A map shows France’s different schooling zones. Source: service-public.fr

From February 28th, pupils in all schools who are a contact cases will only need to take two Covid tests – one (PCR or antigen) on the day of infection alert and another (self-test, PCR or antigen) two days later. Previously, a third test had to be taken on Day 4.

Pupils under the age of 12 who test negative on the day of their contact are allowed to return to school on the condition that they take a Day 2 test. Those who don’t take tests are required follow distance learning for seven days. 

The rule is a little different for contact case children over the age of 12. If unvaccinated, they must self isolate and take a  test on Day 7 before returning to class. 

From February 21st, parents of children under the age of 12 will no longer need to sign an attestation sur l’honneur declaring that these tests have been taken. 

“This system will make the life of parents and teachers easier,” said Blanquer. 

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COVID-19

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).

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