France closes 22 schools days after reopening due to Covid-19 outbreaks

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The French government has shut 22 schools in metropolitan France and the overseas territory of Réunion due to fresh cases of Covid-19.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer insisted that back-to-school had gone smoothly for the vast majority, but parent associations are concerned that too much is being left up to families to manage.

"The health protocol is working," assured Blanquer, speaking to Europe 1 radio on Friday morning, marking the end of the first week since the new school year began.

"There are 22 establishments which have had to close due to cases or suspected cases of Covid-19," he said, "Twelve of those were in mainland France and 10 in the overseas territory of Reunion Island."

Three-case limit

Around 120 classes concerned are in the regions of Haute-Loire, Rhône and Bretagne.

"This is out of 60,000 French schools, so in fact it's a very small number," Blanquer said, adding that some 250 health procedures are followed each day.

"If there are more than three cases of Covid-19, then the school must close," he said.

The number of French Covid-19 cases has jumped dramatically in recent days, with new daily cases topping 7,000 on Wednesday and Thursday. The number of hospitalisations and intensive care admissions has also risen, according to public health authorities.

The government is facing questions over childcare options for parents if their children's schools or classes are closed.

The Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne told France Info radio on Friday that solutions would be found, in the form of part-time work or compensation in such cases.

Parents feel unprepared

"The priority is that parents can continue going to work," she said.

The Federation of Students' Parents (FCPE) has expressed its concern over how to deal with school closures and testing.

"The families are completely unprepared, especially when it comes to testing children for the virus," the FCPE's Alixe Rivière said.

"There was no discussion about how to prepare parents for this. They are left to decide for themselves whether or not to test their children and this is no way to handle an epidemic."

Rivière also bemoaned the fact that only 1,700 new teachers were hired for the new school year.