The ministry for health will make one million rapid Covid tests available in French schools from next week, it has confirmed.
The antigen tests are intended to be used by staff including teachers, administrators and supervisors.
The ministry for education said on November 9: “[The deployment of tests] should begin next week. They will be sent to all schools situated in zones in which access to PCR tests is limited as soon as cases of Covid-19 appear in an establishment.
"Tests can be administered by school nurses on a voluntary basis, and they will potentially be assisted by civil protection associations or medical students.”
Covid cases in schools ‘under control’
Figures released on Friday, November 6 by the ministry of education show that 3,528 students and 1,165 had tested positive for Covid-19 out of a possible 12 million students and one million adults who work in schools.
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said that the number of cases indicates that the situation is “under control”, as the number of transmissions in schools is “lower than in the rest of the population”.
Mr Blanquer also announced reinforcements for health protocols in lycées in France on Thursday, November 5.
Schools across France strike today
This comes following strikes from teachers and students over the lack of health measures to fight the virus in schools. Further strikes are planned today (November 10) by unions that believe, among other issues, that the new measures for lycées should also be extended to collèges.
These measures include allowing more remote learning, as long as up to 50% of courses for each student are still taught in person.
A group of teaching unions (made up of FSU, FNEC-FP-FO, CGT, Educ’action, SNALC, SUD and SNCL-FAEN) leading the strikes has said: “The current [health] situation requires a massive and urgent staff presence in schools, collèges and lycées.”
‘Worn out’ teachers cannot go on
The union collective has called on the health minister to begin recruiting more staff, in particular, to prevent students mingling in cafeterias.
Guislaine David, secretary general for the unions, told news source Le Huff Post: “The government’s objective is for schools to stay open until June, but without extra means, how can we stop students from mixing, ensure social distancing and reduce numbers?”
He added that teachers were “worn out” after a difficult few months that have seen them working through a second confinement and dealing with the murder of teacher Samuel Paty in October.
He said: “We urgently need to get around a table with ministers to find solutions to receive students, such as using gymnasiums in order to create half-groups, that will allow us to continue safely in the long-term.”
Other teachers have complained that students do not have enough sinks to wash their hands in, that mask-wearing is an ineffective measure for primary school students, and that more substitute teachers are needed to cover classes if and when teachers contract Covid.
Covid cluster uncovered in police academy
The teaching strikes come as 57 police cadets from a training academy in Montbéliard, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, have tested positive for Covid-19.
The director of the academy told local news source France Bleu: “It started with about 10 cases in one class. But within the two last weeks, the virus has circulated very fast and has contaminated 57 students, almost a quarter of our 250 students."
Local health authorities have now tested 166 students and 70 staff members at the school and will make a decision on whether to close the academy temporarily based on the results.