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Covid-19: can we do better in school canteens?



► Are school canteens a place where the virus is spread?

At the end of 2020, the Institut Pasteur joined forces with the National Health Insurance Fund, Public Health France and the Ipsos Institute to better understand the circumstances in which the virus is transmitted. Result: “Meals play a central role in these contaminations, whether in a family, friendly environment, or to a lesser degree professional”, can we read in his epidemiological study called ComCor.

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The authors do not mention school catering. But the canteen, hinted Jean-Michel Blanquer in a recent interview with Sunday newspaper, Appears like “The weak link in the student’s day”. Simply because this is the only time children and adolescents are allowed to take off their masks.

→ READ. Covid-19: Ile-de-France residents flee confinement, Jean Castex vaccinated, Germany … The recap of March 19

A gesture that now seems more problematic than a few months ago, notes Dominique Costagliola, epidemiologist at Inserm. ” Because we In particular, since the spread of the English variant, which is now the majority in France, has observed an increase in family cells infected by children. “

► What is the protocol in force in school canteens?

The protocol provides for the principle of non-mixing of students. The pupils of the same class, in the first stage, or of the same group, in the secondary, have lunch together. They are not required to sit at a minimum distance from each other. On the other hand, their class or group must respect a distance of two meters from the others. The aim is to bring together the same students at the same table every day as much as possible.

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For the rest, the document provides for cleaning and disinfection of tables “After each service and if possible after each meal”. Students are required to wear a mask when moving around and must respect the directions of movement. Finally, it is recommended to control the renewal of the air, for example by the use of CO sensors2 “.

► How to further limit the risk of contagion?

“In canteens where it is not possible to ventilate properly, it is necessary to find the means of doubling the numbers, including by having the pupils lunch in other places if necessary”, advances Dominique Costagliola. The protocol also provides that we can ” to propose, as a last resort, take-out meals ”.

The town halls have already made a lot of efforts, notes a source very familiar with this issue. “Many have added services. Going further requires more human resources. And we cannot stretch mealtimes indefinitely. We cannot have some pupils lunch at 3 pm ”, she notes. Many elected officials, she continues, also find themselves confronted with different local realities. “In urban communities, we often have a lot of students and little room. “

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The next step would be the closure, a hypothesis that the minister himself did not exclude in his interview from March 14 to JDD. But, resumes our interlocutor, “If meals were no longer served, many parents would no longer send their children to school, especially in rural areas, which depend on school transport.”

Many school stakeholders also insist that the meal taken in the canteen is, for a certain number of children, the only real meal of the day.

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