France eases Covid-19 testing protocols for schoolchildren amid surge in infections

French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a session of questions to the government at the French National Assembly in Paris, France, on January 4, 2022. © Francois Mori, AP

French schoolchildren will be allowed to do self-tests instead of a PCR test if one of their classmates tests positive for coronavirus, as a surge in Covid-19 infections has made the health protocol in the education sector too heavy, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Monday.

"This will have an effect on the queues [outside pharmacies]", Castex told France 2 television in an interview.

"I have understood the worries of parents, teachers and school headmasters", Castex told France 2 television, after a surge in cases due to the Omicron variant led to chaos and paralysis in French schools over the last week.

"Today, 10,452 classes had to close. If we were to shut down classes as soon as there is one first case, bearing in mind the explosion of Omicron, all French schools would be closed in a matter of days", Castex said.

From now on, three negative self-tests instead of a PCR test will be enough proof for a child to continue to attend school, Castex said.

He added that as an additional measure, parents would not immediately be asked to pick up their children in case of a Covid-19 outbreak. Instead schools would be allowed to wait until the end of the school day.

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 in France rose by 767 to 22,749 on Monday, the biggest increase since April 2021.

Health Minister Olivier Véran told lawmakers on Monday that the Omicron coronavirus variant leads to less serious complications than previous variants, but since it is highly infectious, it is pushing hospital numbers up quickly.

France reported close to 94,000 new Covid-19 cases , pushing the seven-day moving average of new infections to a new high of 269,614, official data showed on Monday, the 14th consecutive day seeing the value climbing up.

On Mondays, reported new infections usually drop sharply due to reporting lags on the weekend. In the past seven days, the one-day infections tally has been over 300,000 three times, and came in at more than 296,000 on Sunday.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)


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