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01.09.2020 Europe

Millions of French children return to school amid worries over Covid-19 spike

By RFI
REUTERS - PASCAL ROSSIGNOL
LISTEN SEP 1, 2020
REUTERS - PASCAL ROSSIGNOL

Twelve million schoolchildren returned to schools across the France on Tuesday amid tightened health protocols and a message to respect distancing rules, as authorities look to limit an uptick in Covid-19 cases.

In a video message filmed from the Elysée garden before classrooms reopened for the new academic year, French President Emmanuel Macron told the children: “I'm counting on you a lot to apply barrier measures, wear masks and all the rest.”

Although 21 departments are still classified “red”, meaning the coronavirus is in active circulation, schools have been told they must continue to cater for as many students as possible.

No class will be closed, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told television channel BFM Tuesday morning. "All schools, all colleges, all high schools will open," he added – though he did conceding there may be some exceptions in the coming days.

Teachers are obliged to wear masks supplied by the education ministry, while pupils in middle schools (collèges) and high schools (lycées) must also wear masks. Younger children can head to school mask-free. 

As part of his back to school message, Macon also thanked teachers across France for their efforts in helping to implement measures that will allow for the safest possible start to the year after many months of absence.

Strict protocols  
Meanwhile the government has appealed to parents to watch out for even the slightest symptoms in children, who should then be kept at home and seen to by a doctor. 

If symptoms occur at school, the student will be immediately isolated under adult supervision while waiting for someone to pick them up.

Anyone from age 6 years and over displaying symptoms will be made to wear a mask, before being sent home. That child will not be allowed to return to class before being tested and, in the absence of an available test, will be required to stay home for 14 days.

Blanquer has also promised teachers he will organise a “grenelle”, or open forum, aimed at improving their salaries and working conditions.

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