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Covid-19: in the face of variants, a new protocol in schools

Increasing curves, closures which are multiplying (96 establishments and 444 classes as of January 29 against 64 establishments and 371 classes the previous week): contamination in schools is accelerating, with the additional threat of the English variant. This led, on February 1, to the closure of an elementary school in Strasbourg after the identification of a case, while the Ministry of National Education published the same day a revision of the health protocol taking into account of ” context of emergence of virus variants “.

Rules of three

The main modification is due to the rule of three positive cases to decide on a closure: now, on notification from the regional health agency (ARS), the identification of one of the variants of Covid-19 (English, southern African …) with a staff or a student will result in the closure of the class concerned.

With an important distinction: in kindergarten, where children do not wear a mask, the class will be closed based on a positive case, whether it is the variant or the “original” form of the virus. The principle of three “normal” Covid positive cases to decide on a closure therefore remains in force for the other levels. Another development is that kindergarten students are now included in the definition of contact cases: if a case is found, classmates will be considered as contact cases.

The recognition of contamination in kindergarten is un positive point, to be followed by effects on the ground », Comments Guislaine David, spokesperson for SNUIPP-FSU, the first primary union. Which reminds that positive cases in kindergarten are detected after another member of the family (a parent, a brother or a sister in a higher level) has tested positive.

Sequencing delay and parental consent

To strengthen surveillance, the ministry announces that ” expanded screening operations should be deployed “. Antigenic tests are already being used, but the objective set by Olivier Véran to perform 300,000 per week has not yet been reached: ” we are closer to 200,000 », Estimates Guislaine David.

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In addition to these tests, which do not allow the detection of the variant, “ provision should be made for representative sampling by RT-PCR test », Specifies the ministry. Who adds that ” Pending confirmation by sequencing, the closure measure must be assessed on a case-by-case basis, depending on the number of confirmed cases, the number of classes and levels concerned, and the possible epidemiological link of the case (s) with a confirmed case of variant and / or an area of ​​active variant circulation “. A device that refers to the sequencing time: it will take a few days for laboratories, already very busy, to confirm or not the presence of a variant.

Another condition for deploying effective surveillance of the epidemic is parental consent, which is still required to perform the tests. Moreover, ” sometimes parents, for custody issues, do not declare that their child is positive », Says Guislaine David. Which explains ” partly the discrepancy between the figures of the ministry, based on the declaration, and those of Public Health France “.

Two meters in the canteen

The new instructions also provide for more frequent ventilation of the rooms, at each cut-off and for a few minutes each hour. Otherwise, “ only surgical masks or “general public” category 1 masks may be worn “. In the canteen, the principle adopted is that of a distance of at least two meters between the pupils of a class and the other groups.

→ READ. Should we extend the school holidays to reduce the epidemic?

Many mayors have indicated that they would be obliged to close the canteens, and therefore the school, if the rule of two meters between each student was retained. “, Explains Guislaine David, who judges the rule of two meters between groups” possible, although some establishments will have to organize an additional service “.

It remains to be seen whether these new instructions will make it possible to cope with the progress of the English variant. Rémi Salomon, president of the medical commission of the Public Assistance-Hospitals of Paris, was alarmed by his ” exponential growth “ in Île-de-France, where he would represent ” 15 to 20% of cases “. He advocated the closure of schools ” for three weeks, a month », Which implies an extension of school holidays. A point on which the government has not yet clarified its position, while the holidays in zone A begin on February 6.


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