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What are the new testing and isolation rules for French schoolchildren?

France has introduced a new Covid protocol in its schools, which will see testing ramped up significantly. Here's what you need to know.

French primary school children will soon need to take multiple Covid tests if a classmate tests positive.
French primary school children will soon need to take multiple Covid tests if a classmate tests positive. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP)

12 million pupils return to school on Monday amidst soaring Covid cases across France. 

The government has introduced a new Covid protocol in its schools which will see a change to self-isolation and testing rules. 

The Education Minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, said that the aim was to “ensure the protection of pupils and staff.”

Here’s what you need to know: 

Pupils over 12-years old and staff

Staff and pupils over 12-years-old must follow different procedures according to vaccination status. 

If they test positive but are fully vaccinated, they must self isolate for seven days. This can be reduced to a five day quarantine should a negative PCR or antigen test be carried out on the 5th day and if the person has been asymptomatic for 48 hours. 

If they test positive but are not fully vaccinated, they must self isolate for ten days. This can be reduced to a seven day quarantine should a negative PCR or antigen test be carried out on the 7th day. 

If they are a contact case but fully vaccinated, there are no self-isolation requirements and they can continue going to school. They must however complete self-tests on Day 2 and Day 4 (following the moment they realised they came into contact with someone infected with Covid). 

If they are a contact case but not fully vaccinated, they must self-isolate for seven days and take a PCR or antigen test on the 7th day. 

Pupils under 12-years-old 

No matter their vaccinations status, children under 12 must isolate for at least seven days if they test positive. They can leave on day five if they test negative via a PCR or antigen test and have not had any symptoms of 48 hours. 

Children under 12 must take a PCR test or antigen test immediately after realising that they are a contact case. Providing they test negative, self-tests must then be completed on Day 2 and Day 4. 

For contact case children, parents must sign an attestation sur l’honneur, stating that they have had all the necessary tests before they can return to school. You can download a template form here

The incidence of Covid among 5-11 year olds has exploded by a factor of 12 over the course of a month. Dozens of children are currently in intensive care after falling ill with Covid, but compared to other illnesses like gastroenteritis and bronchitis, Covid has taken a relatively small toll on this age group. 

Other measures 

Last month, Blanquer said that the government had made €20 million available for schools to install CO2 captors in schools, which allow education authorities to judge whether there is a sufficient aeration in classrooms to prevent the spread of Covid. 

France’s Scientific Council is concerned that up to a third of teachers will be off from work by the end of January due to soaring Covid cases. Blanquer said that the government is trying to ensure that recently retired teachers can be called back into service to fill the gap. 

The minister insisted that school exams would go ahead as usual and that there would not be capacity limits in exam halls and amphitheatres. 

France made all 5-11 year olds eligible for vaccination last week. 

Schools will start the new term as planned on Monday, January 3rd.

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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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