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Covid-19: is surveillance in schools really stepped up?



A resumption of face-to-face lessons under close surveillance, first for schoolchildren, on April 26, and with a one-week delay for secondary school students. This is the government’s promise, after three weeks of a parenthesis made of distance learning and school holidays.

The protocol, in itself, has not really changed, except that physical education and sports classes are once again prohibited indoors. For the rest, as before containment, it only takes one positive case to close a class.

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But long based on the statements of parents, who do not always warn the establishment when their child has contracted Covid-19, the figures of positive cases identified by the ministry have so far proven to be well below those of Public Health France for the age groups concerned. These statistics will continue to be based on consolidated feedback from academies, stopped every Thursday at 2:30 p.m. But it is now a matter of massively diagnosing students and staff on site.

Massively diagnose in establishments

From 300,000 weekly saliva tests carried out in March, we should increase to 600,000 tests per week in May, in primary and secondary schools. Operations carried out as a priority in establishments where a positive case has already been detected or in areas particularly affected by the pandemic.

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In high schools, we also expect a lot from self-tests, which will be deployed in May at the level of one test per week per student, two per teacher (1). “The order for 64 million self-tests will make it possible to complete the contact-tracing procedure which aims to identify as soon as possible any positive cases”, ensures the Ministry of Education.

A low acceptance rate among parents

Will this rise in power be enough, when France has 12 million schoolchildren, college and high school students? “The will is there but the device remains undersized”, estimates Stéphane Crochet, the general secretary of the teaching union SE-UNSA.

“Saliva test campaigns – whether these are scheduled every two weeks in certain establishments or requested by the Regional Health Agency in schools in areas where the situation is becoming worrying – would make sense in a situation of low traffic. virus. But their effectiveness is insufficient in the current situation. The delays – generally 24 hours to obtain the results – are too long to really break the chains of contamination ”, considers this union official.

” Without speaking, continues Stéphane Crochet, difficulty in obtaining the consent of certain parents ”, which distorts the photograph. “The acceptance rate is 65%, while the government was relying on 80%”, abounds Yann Diraison, assistant to the general secretary of Catholic education.

“We can see an exit”

According to him, the introduction, in March, of saliva tests had in any case “Made it possible to identify positive cases which would otherwise have gone under the radar or would have been detected late, especially in young children, the most asymptomatic”. Their multiplication should logically make it possible to obtain “A clearer view of the situation”.

Yann Diraison mainly raises questions about the self-tests and the conditions for their realization. “Are the high school students going to do them as a whole class, under the guidance of a teacher? Or individually in a specific room? Will the teacher or staff member monitor the outcome? And if not, how can you be sure that all the students will declare themselves and perform a confirmatory PCR test? “, he wonders.

Nevertheless, maintains Yann Diraison, “Between the saliva tests, the self-tests and the rate of vaccination of the personnel which progresses little by little, we foresee an exit”. Translation: “An end of the school year without re-containment or more restrictive measures”.

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