Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Friday that 22 schools had so far been closed across France and in French territories due to cases of Covid-19, just days after some 12 million students returned to school on Tuesday.
“In mainland France there are currently 12 schools closed out of a total of more than 60,000, which is a small figure. In addition, 10 schools in La Réunion (a French department in the Indian Ocean) were closed, which makes the total 22,” Blanquer told Europe 1 radio.
Up to 130 classes have also been halted and the minister said the authorities were investigating around 250 incidents related to Covid-19 in schools each day.
These incidents are mainly linked to “factors outside school, concerning people who could have been contaminated” over the summer, he said.
If a school reports more than three coronavirus cases the school is temporarily shut, Blanquer said.
But he said the first week of classes had gone “relatively well”, adding that “despite the fears everyone went back and that makes me very happy”.
As more than 12 million pupils returned to school in France on Tuesday, some parents and teachers’ unions voiced concerns over plans for reopening classrooms as the spread of the virus picks up pace.
The health ministry said on Thursday it had registered more than 7,000 new coronavirus infections over 24 hours for the second time in two days, just shy of a 7,578 record set on March 31.
Hospitalisations for the virus are also on the rise in France. The government has taken measures so that the year can begin “as normally as possible”, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Monday.
“School is mandatory,” Blanquer emphasised, adding that he considered the health protocol adopted by his ministry “simple and clear”, and reassuring parents and students that “in principle”, it was not expected to change much.
The protocol “is among the strictest in Europe, which allows us to begin the year as normally as possible”, he said during a visit to Mayenne, in western France.
Traditionally, parents of nursery school children have been allowed to accompany their children into class on the first day of school. Though he did not rule it out for this year, Blanquer reminded the public that “the idea is to avoid contact between adults as much as possible”.
He called on school principals to “be pragmatic”, and on Tuesday, many did open their doors for the parents of very young children.
Some principals even allowed the parents of sixth graders, who began middle school (or College) for the first time on Tuesday, to accompany their children, amid strict enforcement of social distancing and hand