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HEALTH

Sharp rise in class closures across France as Covid cases rise

The number of school classes in France closed because of Covid cases is the highest since the start of the new school year in September, Ministry of Education figures show.

An empty school classroom, with chairs stacked on desks and overhead electric lights switched on
Photo: Martin Bureau / AFP

A total of 4,048 classes are closed across the country, figures released on November 19th reveal, a sharp rise from the 1,246 closures recorded when the official number of class closures was last published on October 22nd, before the Toussaint school holidays.

The previous record high for the current school year showed 3,299 classes were closed on September 16th, a fortnight after pupils returned after the summer holidays. The number of closures then fell steadily to a low of 1,180 on October 14th, before starting to rise again.

The number of confirmed cases among students has also exploded, with 10,962 positive cases registered this week compared to 3,620 in the seven days to October 21st.

Over the whole country, Covid cases are running at around 10,000 per day, meaning that roughly one in seven of all cases are among school-age children.

Covid rates among school staff are also rising, with 776 confirmed cases on November 18th, compared to 257 on October 21st.

Facemasks have been compulsory for children in all primary schools across France since November 15th, when the Ministry of Education raised health protocols to level two across the whole of the country. They had previously been reintroduced in 40 départements after the Toussaint holidays.

On Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron said France would not impose a lockdown on the unvaccinated like the one seen in Austria, but he did not rule out expanding the booster dose programme to more of the general population.

A day previously, government spokesman Gabriel Attal had said that France ‘can manage fifth Covid wave without extra restrictions’.

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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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