COVID-19 Deaths Rise In France

A man has a PCR test for the novel coronavirus at a medical laboratory in Paris amids the Covid-19 pandemic on September 4, 2020. Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

 

The numbers of deaths in France of people diagnosed with Covid-19 is trending upwards for the first time since the end of its lockdown, the public health agency said Friday, warning that all coronavirus indicators were now worsening. 

While a recent surge of infections mostly affected the young, infections are also growing fast among the over-75s.

Admissions to hospital and intensive care wards are also increasing, the health agency added.

“For the first time since the lifting of the (March-May) lockdown, we are seeing an increase in Covid-19 deaths,” the agency said in its weekly update, saying 265 people had died from the virus this week compared with 129 the last.

“The intensification of the spread of the virus among the oldest age group raises fears of the continuation of hospitalisations and deaths in the weeks to come,” it warned.

The number of new infections was down slightly — by eight percent — from the previous week. But the agency warned that this was likely an “underestimate” of infections due to saturation of testing capacity in certain regions.

There is growing concern in France about how hard it is to get a coronavirus test — especially in the Paris region — due to demand. Prime Minister Jean Castex admitted last week it had to do better.

“Not being able to test people (who may need quarantine)… may have an impact on the control of the outbreak,” said Daniel Levy-Bruhl, head of the respiratory infections unit at the agency.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said Thursday that France is preparing tighter restrictions in several cities to curtail a surge in Covid-19 cases after daily infections topped 10,000 twice over the last week.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran wearing a protective mask arrives before addressing media representatives during a press conference at The Ministry of Health in Paris on September 17, 2020, on the situation of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in France. GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP
French Health Minister Olivier Veran wearing a protective mask arrives before addressing media representatives during a press conference at The Ministry of Health in Paris on September 17, 2020, on the situation of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in France. GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

 

The French Riviera city of Nice, still basking in a late Mediterranean summer, on Friday announced restrictions including a maximum of 10 people allowed to gather in its parks and on its beaches.

It will be forbidden to buy or consume alcohol in public in the city after 8:00 pm while bars can no longer open all night.

According to the latest figures, the pandemic has claimed the lives of 31,095 people in France.

Despite the alarming figures, Castex last week steered clear of announcing new nationwide restrictions, saying the French should use caution and “succeed in living with this virus”.

 

AFP

France Probes Doctors Prescribing Antibiotics For Autism

courtesy: thesagenews

 

French prosecutors said Thursday that they had opened an inquiry into dozens of doctors prescribing antibiotics and other drugs as a purported treatment for autism in children, potentially endangering their health.

The investigation comes after an alert by France’s ANSM medicines watchdog that doctors were prescribing long-term courses of antibiotics and drugs against metal poisoning to autistic children.

According to Olivia Cattan, who heads the help group SOS Autisme and has written a book on the practice, some 50 doctors in France are thought to be treating up to 5,000 children this way.

Such prescriptions have been linked to controversial ideas from Nobel Medicine Prize laureate Luc Montagnier, honoured in 2008 for his co-discovery of the virus that causes AIDS, but frequently dismissed by the medical community for his unconventional ideas in recent years.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said its public health department has been entrusted with the probe into charges of “endangering the lives of others” and “offences related to research involving human beings.”

On Tuesday, the ANSM said it had referred the matter, flagged by Cattan, to prosecutors after collecting evidence including parents’ testimony and prescription sheets.

The watchdog said the children were prescribed antibiotics, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic or anti-viral drugs, as well as treatments for heavy metal ingestion that are normally reserved for use in case of poisoning.

The ANSM “formally advises against these uses, for which these drugs have not shown to be effective and which put these children at risk, particularly with prolonged use.”

Effects can include digestive, cardiovascular and skin disorders, while misuse of antibiotics can lead to drug resistance that undermines the effectiveness of future treatments.

The ANSM has also alerted French doctors’ and pharmacists’ associations.

Montagnier has repeatedly suggested that infection may be what causes autism, and set up much-criticised experiments to prove it.

He has claimed that parents and doctors have observed benefits from long-term antibiotic treatment, but most medical professionals remain sceptical of the assertion.

Montagnier is not the only French medical expert to court controversy with unorthodox treatments.

Didier Raoult, a doctor in the southern city of Marseille, has been promoting hydroxychloroquine, usually used in cases of malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, as a treatment for Covid-19 — a remedy vaunted by Donald Trump but shot down by clinical research.

AFP

‘France Is The Country Of Innovation’: President Macron Defends 5G Technology

French President Emmanuel Macron is seen on a screen as he delivers a speech during the annual “French Tech” event at the Elysee Palace in Paris on September 14, 2020. / AFP / Ludovic MARIN

 

 

France will move forward with its planned deployment of 5G telecom networks despite detractors who would prefer “the Amish model” and “going back to the oil lamp”, President Emmanuel Macron said Monday.

Nearly 70 left-wing elected officials and environmentalists called on Sunday for a moratorium on 5G technology, which is due to be rolled out in France at the end of the month.

5G networks are touted as promising an exponential leap in the amount and speed of wireless data, enabling advances in self-driving vehicles, virtual reality, connected health and more as sensors and servers communicate instantly.

But the technology has come under scrutiny, and officials have called for more studies on the environmental and health impacts of its infrastructure.

“France is the country of innovation… We are going to put to rest all false ideas,” Macron told entrepreneurs at a gathering of French tech start-ups at the Elysee Palace.

“I hear a lot of voices being raised to explain to us that the complexity of contemporary problems should be addressed by going back to the oil lamp. I don’t believe that the Amish model can solve the challenges of contemporary ecology,” Macron joked, referring to the American community which is suspicious of technology.

AFP

France Says COVID Crisis ‘Worsening,’ Aims To Avoid Lockdown

File photo: French President Emmanuel Macron holds a press conference at the end of the Global Fund meeting to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria on October 10, 2019, in Lyon, central-eastern France.  Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

French Prime Minister Jean Castex warned Friday the country was seeing a “clear worsening” of the coronavirus pandemic but said he would aim to avoid a new nationwide lockdown that would further hamper the economy.

Nearly 10,000 new cases were recorded on Thursday, a record since wide-scale testing began, but Castex said a recent increase in Covid-19 hospitalisations was particularly worrying.

“We have to succeed in living with this virus, without returning to the idea of a generalised lockdown,” he said in a televised statement from his official residence in Paris.

“Our strategy is not changing. We must fight the virus without putting on hold our social, cultural and economic life, the education of our children and our ability to live normally,” he added.

Castex said 42 of France’s 101 departments are now classified as “red zones” where the virus is circulating rapidly, up from 28 earlier this week.

“There is no Maginot Line — inevitably it ends up reaching the most vulnerable,” he said, referring to the supposedly unbreakable defences France built ahead of World War II.

But he did not announce any major new restrictions, urging people instead to respect social distancing guidelines and the use of face masks.

And the quarantine period for people who catch the virus will be shortened to just seven days from 14, to better match “the period when there is a real risk of contagion,” he said.

The move is a tacit acknowledgement that enforcing quarantines has proven nearly impossible given the number of new cases.

– ‘Tough decisions’ –

Castex also said testing capacities would be ramped up in response to long wait times for appointments and results.

Priority cases involving people with confirmed exposure to Covid-19 patients or already showing symptoms will be given reserved spots at testing centres, and 2,000 more people will be hired to carry out contact tracing.

Officials have been increasingly concerned about the high number of infections in France, even if the death toll and admissions to intensive care are way below the highs recorded in March and April.

The health ministry said 9,843 new coronavirus infections were recorded on Thursday, the highest number since large-scale testing began.

France’s total death toll from the pandemic now stands at 30,813.

The head of the scientific council advising the government on the pandemic, Jean-Francois Delfraissy, said Wednesday that the government may soon have to make “tough” decisions to slow the outbreak.

People at high risk because of old age or health problems including diabetes, obesity and respiratory issues may require a protective “bubble” around them, for example.

There was the danger of a “very rapid, exponential rise” in some places, Delfraissy said, singling out the French Riviera and Provence regions.

Castex himself is in a seven-day period of self-isolation, having spent part of last weekend with the boss of the Tour de France Christian Prudhomme, who tested positive for Covid-19. Castex was later deemed virus-free after an initial test.

AFP

French Economy To Bounce Back As Lockdown Lifted

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a Defense Council video-conference on Niger at the Fort de Bregancon, southern France on August 11, 2020. 
Daniel Cole / POOL / AFP

 

France’s economy, which like those of other countries was pushed into a bruising recession by the coronavirus, will bounce back now that lockdown measures are lifted but will still contract over the year as a whole, official data showed Tuesday.

France’s gross domestic product, which had shrunk by a record 13.8 percent in the second quarter, is forecast to grow by 17 percent in the subsequent three months, the national statistics office Insee calculated.

Nevertheless, the rebound was not quite as strong as expected and Insee said it was sticking to its forecast for an overall economic contraction of 9.0 percent for the year as a whole.

If the easing of lockdown measures “has enabled a relatively rapid rebound in parts of economic activity,” the economy is returning after the summer break “rather like an engine that is being cranked up and choked at the same time,” Insee said.

While activity in key areas such as air transport and culture and entertainment continued to be throttled by the coronavirus restrictions, some sectors were still benefitting from the emergency economic measures put in place by the government, the statisticians said.

Insee pointed to the risk of a “significant shock to demand”, with consumer spending and household confidence expected to remain below pre-crisis levels.

As a result, the economic rebound will be “less rapid” between now and the end of the year, the agency predicted.

 

 

AFP

Nations League: France Face Croatia In World Cup Final Rematch

France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris fails to save Croatia’s forward Ivan Perisic’s equalizer during the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

 

A little over two years after the World Cup final in Moscow, France and Croatia meet again, this time under very different circumstances, in the second round of Nations League matches in Paris on Tuesday.

What should have been a festive full house at the Stade de France, a chance to relive the excitement of Les Bleus’ 4-2 win that July afternoon in Moscow, will be more downbeat, thanks to coronavirus. European football body UEFA has directed that all the games be played behind closed doors.

The atmosphere in a stadium with no spectators will inevitably be flat and the teams on show will be markedly different as the coaches try to manage players who, because of the upheaval in the calendar over the last six months, are not fully fit.

Squad rotation is a necessity, not a choice.

“I’m going to make a lot of changes because it’s very difficult to keep going,” France coach Didier Deschamps said after Saturday’s scratchy 1-0 win over Sweden in his side’s Nations League Group 3 opener in Solna.

“Already, playing 90 minutes with this deficit at the start is taking risks with the players.

“It may go against cohesion and my instinct but I think I have no choice.”

The Croats will be glad to welcome back their veteran midfield pair of Luka Modric and Ivan Ratikic who were rested for the 4-1 thrashing in Portugal on Saturday to be fresh for Paris.

That means Kylian Mbappe, who scored with France’s only shot on goal to beat the Swedes, is likely to be the highest profile absentee.

Part of that is his fitness — the 21-year-old took a nasty blow to his right ankle which had barely recovered from a major sprain — and part of it is club/country politics.

Mbappe is expected to be in Lens on Thursday as Paris Saint-Germain, who have lost six players including Neymar to positive Covid-19 tests, make a belated start to their Ligue 1 season.

– Rotation opportunities –

The promise and need for rotation may open some doors in Deschamps’ starting line-up.

Manchester United’s Anthony Martial, who returned in attack in Solna after more than two years out of the reckoning, may have a further opportunity to press his claims.

The same goes for Real Madrid midfielder Ferland Mendy if Lucas Digne is given a rest, and Lucas Hernandez who has been used sparingly at Bayern Munich.

But the name that is garnering much of the attention is that of Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga.

At 17 years and nine months, Camavinga missed out on a first cap on Saturday which would have made him France’s youngest player since World War II but there is every chance that will come in Paris on Tuesday.

To make the starting line-up Camavinga will need to dislodge either Adrien Rabiot, who played in Sweden for the first time since his refusal to be a reserve for the 2018 World Cup, or N’Golo Kante who put in a big performance in Scandinavia.

But Deschamps has all but promised Camavinga some game time, allowing the French to take a look at a young player who is likely to figure largely, alongside Mbappe, in the future.

AFP

France Puts More Departments On COVID-19 High Alert

 

French authorities have placed seven more departments covering major cities such as Lille, Strasbourg and Dijon on high alert as increases in COVID-19 infections accelerate, the government said Sunday.

Of France’s 101 mainland and overseas departments, 28 are now considered “red zones” where authorities will be able to impose exceptional measures to slow the number of new coronavirus cases.

The move comes as France reported a record of nearly 9,000 daily cases on Friday, and a further 8,550 cases in the past 24 hours on Saturday, when the nationwide test positivity rate increased to 4.7 percent.

Paris and the Bouches-du-Rhone department encompassing the southeastern city of Lyon were the first to be placed on high alert by the government on August 14 after infection rates began to climb.

That prompted local officials to require face masks in all public spaces to slow the virus’s spread, in hope of avoiding a spike in cases that could again overwhelm hospitals as autumn approaches.

The Sante Publique France health agency, which has warned of “exponential” caseload increases, said Saturday that 53 new outbreak clusters had been discovered in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number under investigation to 484.

Twelve more Covid-19 deaths were reported, for an overall toll of 30,698 since the pandemic flared last March.

Concerns over infection risks have already prompted officials to close 22 schools after cases were detected just days after students returned from the summer break last week, and dozens of individual classes have also been suspended.

On Sunday, the government said pre-school teachers as well as those with deaf students would soon be given transparent masks to facilitate comprehension at a crucial education stage for young children.

“More than 100,000 of these masks will be produced by the end of this month,” the state secretary in charge of people with disabilities, Sophie Cluzel, told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

AFP

Two French Soldiers Killed In Mali

This handout picture released by the French Army Information and Public Relations Service (SIRPA Terre) on September 5, 2020, shows 1st Class Hussar Arnaud Volpe of the 1st regiment of parachute hussars of Tarbes, who was killed on September 5, 2020 in Mali during his deployment as part of the Operation Barkhane. SIRPA / AFP
This handout picture released by the French Army Information and Public Relations Service (SIRPA Terre) on September 5, 2020, shows 1st Class Hussar Arnaud Volpe of the 1st regiment of parachute hussars of Tarbes, who was killed on September 5, 2020 in Mali during his deployment as part of the Operation Barkhane. SIRPA / AFP

 

Two French soldiers with the anti-jihadist Barkhane force in Mali were killed Saturday when their armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device, the French presidency said.

A third soldier was wounded in the explosion in the Tessalit province of the northeastern region of Kidal, a statement said.

President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the two dead soldiers, members of a paratroop regiment based in Tarbes, southwest France, while repeating his call for a swift transition to civilian rule by the military junta that seized power last month.

Senior French politicians and military officers have expressed concern at the effect that last month’s military coup might have on the effectiveness of the fight against the jihadist active in Mali and neighbouring countries.

Swathes of Mali’s territory are outside of the control of central authorities and years of fighting have failed to halt an Islamist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives since emerging in 2012.

France has deployed over 5,000 troops serving in its Barkhane anti-jihadist force in West Africa.

According to the French army command, this latest incident brings to 45 the number of French soldiers who have died serving in the Sahel region since 2013.

In November 2019, France lost 13 soldiers in a single incident when two helicopters collided during an operation in Mali.

 

AFP

France Closes 22 Schools Over Rise In COVID-19 Cases

Moderna's COVID-19 Vaccine Set For Final Trial Stage After 'Promising' Results
In this file photo taken on May 18, 2020, a syringe is pictured on an illustration representation of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in Paris. JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

France’s education minister on Friday said 22 schools have had to shut on French territory due to the coronavirus since pupils returned to school this week, emphasising that over half of these were in the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told Europe 1 radio that he was however pleased with how the return to school had progressed since children went back nationwide on Tuesday.

Ten schools have closed in mainland France and 12 on La Reunion, where there has been a recent surge in coronavirus cases, he said. France has some 60,000 schools nationwide.

Up to 130 classes have also been halted within schools and the minister said the authorities were checking around 250 incidents related to Covid-19 in schools every day.

These incidents are mainly linked to “factors outside school concerning people who could have been contaminated” over the summer, he said. More than three COVID cases mean that the school is temporarily shut, he said.

But he added the first week had gone “relatively well” and “despite the fears, everyone went back and that makes me very happy”, he said.

France is currently seeing a surge in coronavirus cases — with 7,157 new cases reported on Thursday — although authorities have said everything will be done to avoid any new nationwide lockdown.

The surge has worried France’s far-flung overseas territories in the Indian Ocean, Pacific and South America, where health systems are often not as sturdy as those on the mainland.

AFP

French Goalkeeper Mandanda Tests Positive For COVID-19

In this file photo taken on November 12, 2019, France’s goalkeeper Steve Mandanda gives a press conference in Clairefontaine en Yvelines as part of the team’s preparation for the upcoming Euro-2020 football qualifier matches against Moladavia and Albania. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

 

 

Goalkeeper Steve Mandanda was withdrawn from the French squad to face Sweden and Croatia in upcoming UEFA Nations League clashes after returning a positive Covid-19 test, officials announced on Thursday.

Mandanda will on Friday leave the squad before they depart for Solna where the world champions face Sweden on Saturday.

He will also miss the game against Croatia next Thursday.

The 35-year-old returned a positive test on Wednesday.

“The goalkeeper carried out a second PCR test during the day. This new test was also positive. Steve Mandanda will therefore not be able to participate in the match in Sweden,” said the France team in a statement.

Mandanda has been in a training “bubble” before the trip to Sweden and, like all his teammates, had previously tested negative.

The keeper plays at Marseille, where several cases of Covid-19 have been detected in recent weeks.

AFP

Trial Opens Over Charlie Hebdo Terror Attacks That Stunned France

Police officers patrol outside Paris’ courthouse, on September 2, 2020, on the opening day of the trial of 14 suspected accomplices in Charlie Hebdo jihadist killings. – Fourteen people accused of helping jihadist gunmen attack the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket go on trial, five years after days of terror that sent shockwaves through France. Thomas COEX / AFP.

 

Fourteen people accused of helping jihadist gunmen storm the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket went on trial Wednesday, five years after three days of terror sent shock waves through France.

The events that began on January 7, 2015 sparked a series of attacks on French soil, including “lone wolf” killings by people said to be inspired by the Islamic State group that have since claimed more than 250 lives.

Hearings began under heavy security as eleven of the suspects appeared in the courtroom, facing charges of conspiracy in a terrorist act or association with a terror group.

Three others, including the wife of one of the gunmen, fled to IS-held territory in Syria days before the attacks and are being tried in absentia.

Charlie Hebdo, whose taboo-shattering style makes it a beacon of free speech for many, marked the trial’s opening by republishing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that had angered Muslims around the world.

“That’s the essence of the Charlie Hebdo spirit: It’s refusing to give up our freedoms, our laughter, and even our blasphemy,” the paper’s lawyer, Richard Malka, said before entering the courtroom.

“Don’t be afraid, neither of terrorism, nor of freedom.”

Some 150 experts and witnesses will be heard over the next two and a half months in the trial that will revisit one of the most painful chapters in France’s modern history.

The three assailants were killed by police, but any suggestion that those on trial were only minor players has been rubbished by prosecutors and relatives of the victims.

“These people aren’t lackeys,” said Patrick Klugman, a lawyer for one of the victims, insisting the suspects shared a deep-seated anti-Semitism.

– ‘Just so unfair’ –

Twelve people, including some of France’s most celebrated cartoonists, were gunned down on January 7, 2015, when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed the paper’s offices in eastern Paris.

A day later, Amedy Coulibaly, who became close to Cherif Kouachi while they were in prison, killed a 27-year-old police officer, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, during a traffic check in Montrouge, outside Paris.

“I just want to know why my daughter was killed. It’s just so unfair,” Clarissa’s mother Marie-Louisa Jean-Philippe, who will testify at the trial, told French daily Liberation on Wednesday.

Coulibaly went on to kill four men, all Jews, during a hostage-taking at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris on January 9. He recorded a video saying the three attacks were coordinated and carried out in the name of the Islamic State jihadist group.

Coulibaly was killed when police stormed the supermarket. The Kouachi brothers were killed when officers carried out a nearly simultaneous operation at the printing shop where they were holed up northeast of Paris.

– Weapons and ideology –

The trial was originally set for last spring but was delayed by the coronavirus crisis that shut down most French courthouses.

Of the 14 suspects, three escaped arrest: Hayat Boumedienne, Coulibaly’s girlfriend, and two brothers, Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine, all of whom fled for IS-controlled areas in Syria just days before the attacks.

The Belhoucine brothers were reportedly killed while fighting alongside IS, while French officials suspect Boumedienne is on the run in Syria. Arrest warrants remain outstanding for all three.

Mohamed Belhoucine and Ali Riza Polat, a French citizen of Turkish origin, face the most serious charges of complicity in a terrorist act, which carry a maximum sentence of life in jail.

The former is thought to have become the ideological mentor of Coulibaly after meeting him in jail, opening up channels of communication for him to IS.

Polat, seen as close to Coulibaly, is suspected of playing a central role in preparing the attacks, notably by helping to build up the arsenal of weapons used.

Given its historical importance, the trial at the Paris courthouse will be filmed for France’s official archives, a first for a terror trial. It is scheduled to run until November 10.

AFP

Masks The Subject As Virus-Wary Schools Reopen Across Europe

File photo: Homemade protective face masks are prepared by Sarah, a 45-year-old volunteer, who sews face masks to be distributed to people in need, at her home in Vincennes, eastern suburbs of Paris, on May 7, 2020, on the 52nd day of a strict lockdown in France to stop the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). – GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP.

 

Millions of students headed back to class in France, Belgium and England on Tuesday as European schools cautiously reopened amid rising coronavirus cases in several countries, with face masks often mandatory.

Officials have drawn fire from parents and teachers worried that strict social distancing and other protective measures will not be enough to prevent a second wave of COVID-19.

But many governments insist that the greater risk is young people losing out on crucial in-person lessons, and that keeping kids at home for distance learning puts too big a burden on working parents.

“I do not underestimate how challenging the last few months have been, but I do know how important it is for children to be back in school, not only for their education but for their development and well-being,” Britain’s Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

The UN’s education agency UNESCO warned that just half the roughly 900 million primary and secondary students restarting school from August to October will actually be allowed back in classrooms.

“Several generations are facing the threat of school closures, which concern hundreds of millions of students and have lasted many months,” the agency’s director general Audrey Azoulay said in a statement late Monday.

In France, some 12.4 million students returned Tuesday, with masks required for all teachers as well as students over 11.

“It doesn’t bother me to wear a mask, even if it does feel a little weird,” said Marie, who was starting her first year of middle school in the southern French city of Marseille.

But many teachers were less enthusiastic. “How can we connect with children when half your face is hidden behind a mask?” said Julie Siata, who teaches English at another Marseille school.

– ‘No zero risk’ –

Pupils also returned Tuesday in Belgium, which has suffered one of the highest rates of coronavirus deaths in Europe.

Masks are required for those aged 12 and older, and must be kept in a protective case or pouch.

“You can’t risk having the mask contaminated when taking it off to eat,” said Martin, soon to be 13, as he headed to school in Brussels, adding that he was “stressed” about the new protective measures.

In England and Wales, where openings as well as start times are being staggered this week to avoid crowds on public transport and playgrounds, teachers are urging parents to avoid lingering with other parents after drop-offs.

The British government has faced a storm of criticism over reopening schools, after reversing course last week to announce that face masks would be recommended after all to stem a rise in new Covid-19 cases.

German schools reopened last month, as did many in Scotland which has control of its school system.

Masks will also be compulsory in Greece, where children are expected to return to school on Monday, while Spain will require all students 6 and older to wear masks when classes resume next week.

Children in Spain should also maintain a distance of 1.5 metres (5 feet) from each other, and are being urged to wash their hands at least five times a day.

“I believe fathers, mothers, and the education community can be sure that their sons and daughters, that school employees, will be much safer in schools than in other places,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told Cadena Ser radio.

“But there is no zero risk,” he acknowledged, as Spain also reported an alarming surge in the number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

In Italy, where the virus first struck in Europe, concerns are growing that school reopenings set for September 14 could prove too risky despite masks and staggered opening and cafeteria times.

Three regions in southern Italy have already pushed back openings to the end of this month.

AFP