Thousands Of Schools Reopen In France As Lockdown Eases

Primary school pupils attend a class wearing protective visor caps made by the city council in La Grand-Croix, near Saint-Etienne, central France, on May 12, 2020. JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP
Primary school pupils attend a class wearing protective visor caps made by the city council in La Grand-Croix, near Saint-Etienne, central France, on May 12, 2020. JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP


Thousands of schools reopened throughout France on Tuesday as the government eases its coronavirus lockdown rules despite some fears of a second waves of infections.

According to official figures there were 348 new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, bringing the national total to 26,991.

Primary and nursery schools reopened however, with teachers wearing face masks and the children’s chairs separated to avoid spreading the disease.

For Gregory Bouvier, headmaster of a nursery school in Rennes, northwest France, it was all a bit “surreal”.

“It’s not part of a nursery school’s DNA to have the children spaced apart from each other remaining at their desks and not able to share things,” he told AFP.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer hailed the reopening, which will be rolled out gradually throughout the country, including Paris schools on Thursday, before some secondary schools resume lessons next week.

To ease the fears of parents concerned that the virus remains just a sneeze away, the government has given them the choice to allow their children to return to school or remain under lockdown at home.

Unions have criticised the decision to reopen the schools calling it “premature”.

Some scientists and parliamentary deputies have also questioned the decision.

France began easing its two-month lockdown on Monday, with residents able venture outdoors without filling in a permit for the first time in nearly eight weeks and some shops reopening their doors.

But officials are keeping an anxious eye on events in Germany and South Korea which have reimposed some restrictions as virus cases rose after they eased lockdown measures.



How Easing Of Lockdown Will Be Implemented – PTF

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has given a breakdown of how the easing of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) will be implemented.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Monday April 27, approved that as from May 4, the lockdown could be eased in phases to allow the recommencement of socio-economic activities, as with a 6:00 am t 8:00 pm curfew in place.

But according to the National Coordinator of the Task Force, Aliyu Sani, during Wednesday’s briefing, the easing of the lockdown is actually just a shift from one set of interventions to another.

“The most important thing I want to emphasize is, even though we talk about easing the lockdown, in actual fact, we are not really easing, we are just shifting from one set of interventions to another because we are really still far from controlling this epidemic,” he said.

For general movements outside the curfew periods, the PTF coordinator said: “people may go out for work, to buy necessary food and for exercise but we strongly advise persons to restrict themselves to their local government areas except for those that live in metropolitan areas”.

Interstate travel, according to him, will be restricted to only those involved in the supply chain and services such as goods, agricultural products, petroleum products, courier services and relief items etc.

On the other hand, for intrastate movement, services and businesses were advised to provide hand sanitizers for customers.

The general public was also advised to imbibe the use of face masks, and other hygiene methods.

On the issue of mass gatherings, Aliyu said there shall be no gatherings of more than 20 persons anywhere per time so as to ensure adherence to physical distancing.

For the manufacturing sector, “we encourage shift work for manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies and limiting staff to only 30-50% to maintain physical distancing and pharmacy shops may remain open overnight,” he said.

Financial institutions such as banks will be allowed to open but there will be restriction of opening hours between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm.

Restaurants have been asked not open to the public but will be allowed to engage in in-home delivery of food.

Academic institutions are, however, advised to remain closed until further evaluation is done.

“Schools are encouraged to continue with e-learning and virtual teaching”, the PTF coordinator added.

As for government staff, he stated that they will be allowed to resume based on specific grade levels and specific days, so as to reduce the level of congestion at the workplace.