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Back to school: primary school, weak link in the anti-Covid strategy?

In this new school year, scheduled for September 2, there is what changes: a vaccination campaign in middle and high schools. And then, for lack of anything better, in primary school, the status quo: the students being too young to be vaccinated, we will continue to rely on the ventilation of the premises, barrier gestures or even wearing a mask in class from of the CP, as confirmed by Jean-Michel Blanquer in JDD, Sunday August 22.

→ READ. Masks, vaccination… Jean-Michel Blanquer unveils the school health protocol

“The protocol announced is almost the same as that in force at the beginning of July”, observes Guislaine David, general secretary of the SNUipp union. “Among the rare changes, we note the obligation to wear a mask during recess in areas where this measure is already in force in public spaces. But oWe could have gone further by generalizing this provision in all schools. Because during recess, children often play very close together“, she regrets.

The situation has changed

“Basically, the ministry is approaching this re-entry a bit like that of last year, while the hegemony of the Delta variant (responsible in France for 94% of contaminations, Editor’s note) change the deal ”, continues Guislaine David. And recall the recent projections of the Pasteur Institute, which anticipates 100,000 contaminations per day, including 50,000 in minors.

→ YOUR QUESTIONS. Back to school: “Will there be a health pass to accompany your child?” “

“The protocol is even lightened on a crucial point, the canteen, since there is no longer a ban on mixing between classes”, is surprised for his part Stéphane Crochet, secretary general of SE-Unsa. The ministry recommends, “As far as possible”, to have the same children eat lunch every day at the same table.

Towards a sharp increase in the number of cases

Deeming these rules insufficient, a group of around thirty doctors, scientists and teachers signed on August 20 in The world, a forum calling on the public authorities to engage “Firm action” to protect students. His text mentions a rise in the number of hospitalizations of 0-9 year olds in several countries. It also discusses the persistent symptoms that present, “According to scientific literature and British government data”, between 2% and 8% of infected children.

President of the French Pediatric Society,Professor Christèle Gras-Le Guen is less alarmist. “The Delta variant is six times more contagious. And we can expect a sharp increase in the number of cases in children. But, among the latter, hospitalizations in critical condition can be counted, in France, for the moment, on the fingers of one hand ”, she reassures.

“The danger they run is not respiratory distress but a deterioration of their mental health if they end up being cut off from school again”, stresses Christèle Gras-Le Guen again. In his view, a solution is needed: “Adults must be vaccinated to guarantee children a peaceful schooling. “

Strengthen screening

In the meantime, making a success of the start of the school year supposes strengthening the screening, estimates the scientific council in a document submitted this weekend to the government. “It would take two saliva tests per week”, pleads one of the members of this body, Denis Malvy. “This would allow the temporary eviction of children who are already carriers but not or not yet symptomatic. And that would avoid closing classes at the first proven case“, continues the infectious disease specialist.

→ READ. Is the Delta variant more dangerous for children?

On his side, “The minister keeps the objective of 600,000 tests per week”, recalls Guislaine David, from SNUipp. “But many parents have so far refused the process, fearing that they will have to keep their children in the event of a positive result”, she laments. A recent Inserm study shows that 50% of families’ adherence to these tests would be enough to make the measure effective.

The issue of ventilation

The other lever, for Denis Malvy, consists of “Generalization” CO sensors2 alerting to the need to ventilate a room, as well as air purifiers, when ventilation is impossible. The ministry recommends the use of sensors but it cannot impose it, the expense falling on the local communities. “Funds should be released for municipalities that cannot finance the purchase of this equipment”, assures the cabinet of Jean-Michel Blanquer.

“By opting for a fairly flexible protocol, the Minister wants to send everyone the message that the time has come to resume learning. Even if it means toughening the rules after re-entering the territories most affected by the pandemic ”, slips his entourage.


A four-scenario protocol

In national education, the protocol will be deployed in this 2021 school year according to four scenarios: green, yellow, orange or red, the latter corresponding to the most degraded health situation.

Depending on the color, the rules vary when it comes to wearing a mask, practicing sports or even catering to school.

Depending on the epidemic situation,the passage from one level to another can be decided at the national or territorial level (department, academy, region).

Jean-Michel Blanquer announced, for all academies, a return to yellow level.


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