School and university doctors in France have demanded the closure of all schools and colleges for four weeks to stem the spread of the coronavirus and avoid a third national lockdown.
The syndicat national des médecins scolaires et universitaires (snmsu.unsa) made the call as school holidays got underway in one the three zones covering establishments in cities such as Marseille and Nice in the south, Amiens, Caen and Lille in the north as well as Nancy and Metz in the east and Nantes to the west.
The doctors say a month-long break for all of the country’s pupils and students would help to cut the number of infections.
“The closure would slow the circulation of the virus in schools and could avoid a closure that could be much longer,” said the SNMSU-UNSA. “Another long period of confinement is contrary to the interests of students."
Schools remained open during the second lockdown in November 2020.
Education secretary Jean-Michel Blanquer has reiterated the government's desire to maintain the stance.
But students and teachers have gone on strike over what they claim are poor sanitary conditions within buildings and the lack of government help and resources to make sites safer.
On Monday in Eaubonne, to the north of Paris, the Collège Jules Ferry was forced to close after the South African variant was detected.
The SNMSU-UNSA says that students are active links in the chain of transmission, especially since the appearance of the new variants.
"Two weeks of winter holidays will not be enough to reduce the incidence of the pandemic in schools," the union said.
“All the more so as the government has authorised travel within France during the holidays and therefore the mixing of populations.”
Nearly 80,000 people have died in France since January 2020 from the coronavirus.
A vaccination programme has been launched but came under fire for a chaotic start.
“We ask the education minister to take into account the opinion of the national education doctors who are experts in promoting health in schools," the union added.