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France Covid: Schools warned to be alert to new variants

New variants of Covid could ‘affect young people more’ said the director general of health as schools reopen after Christmas today ‘as planned’

4 January 2021
By Hannah Thompson

France’s director general of health has warned people to be “very alert in school settings” as the new variants of Covid-19 could “affect young people more”, he said, as schools go back as usual today.

National Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer yesterday told news service BFMTV that children and teenagers in France will go back to school, and college “as planned” today, but that Covid-19 tests would be “deployed even more strongly” in establishments, along with a “strengthened health protocol”.

He said: "Countries that have delayed [going back to school] are countries that are dealing with a particularly difficult epidemic situation, notably England. But in France, we will have a normal rentrée using a strengthened health protocol, which has proven itself. This protocol will continue to work."

He added: “We are always capable of making adjustments in future if necessary. We are very attentive, and we are staying alert. But we can absolutely go back to school [as planned].”

Mr Blanquer also said that Covid-19 tests would be stepped up, especially in lycées; and that he believes teachers should be vaccinated “by the month of March at the latest”.

It comes after the two new variants of Covid-19 - one first identified in the UK, and another in South Africa - have been detected in France.

Director General of Health, Jérôme Salomon, has said that these two new variants could affect young people more than the previous variant, and urged more caution in schools.

He told newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche: “[These variants] are not necessarily more dangerous, but they are clearly more contagious. They seem to also affect young people more. We must be very alert in school and university settings.”

Universities are set to begin reopening doors today too, after nearly two months of distance-learning. However, many have said they will wait until next week to see how the health situation develops.

Government advisory body le Conseil Scientifique has already said it fears an “uncontrolled” rebound in the epidemic in France, due to the Christmas and New Year festivities.

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