France Covid-19: Teachers strike in protest at school protocols

The French Ministry of Education informed CNN that about 31% of all teachers were on strike Thursday, with 38% in main schools doing something about it and almost 24% in secondary schools.

The figures were considerably lower than those offered by a French instructors’ union previously in the day.

“This is the ministry downplaying once again the magnitude of the strike,” a representative for the Combined National Union of Main School Educators, Guislene David, stated when inquired about the inconsistency.

In Paris, 58% of instructors were on strike​, and almost 200 schools were closed​ Thursday, according to the mayor’s workplace.

A demonstration arranged by instructors’ unions started around lunch break in Paris. Nevertheless, little groups of instructors were currently seen requiring to the streets by the capital’s Arc de Triomphe, along with in other cities, Thursday early morning.

A French trade unionist speaking on radio station France Info​ said the strike was “not against the virus,” but rather “a strike against the lack of consultation.”

French Prime Minister Jean Castex and Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer will meet Thursday afternoon with representatives of all the instructors on strike, a spokesperson for the joint teachers’ union told CNN.

An education ministry spokesperson confirmed to CNN that Castex and Blanquer would be attending the meeting.

According to CNN’s French affiliate BFMTV, Health Minister Olivier Veran, who announced Thursday he had tested positive for Covid-19 and is isolating, will join them by videoconference.

On Tuesday, France recorded its highest number of Covid-19 daily infections since the pandemic began, with a total of 368,149 new cases, according to data released by the French government. A further 361,719 new cases were recorded Wednesday.

French teachers take part in a demonstration in Nice on Thursday over the government's Covid-19 protocols for schools.

Teachers ‘fed up’

Union leaders say their members are frustrated by constantly changing guidelines on how to handle the pandemic.

On January 2, the eve of the new school semester, Blanquer outlined new Covid-19 rules for schools in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper.

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These rules stated that if a positive Covid-19 case was detected in a class, all other students would have to take three Covid-19 tests in four days to stay in school. They must first take a PCR or antigen test, with two self-administered tests to be taken at home on day 2 and day 4.

Laurent Berger, head of the French Democratic Confederation of Labor, whose union joined the strike Thursday, stated the schools learned of the new protocol only one day before the new school year started, adding that the rules were changing “all the time.”

Teachers and personnel are “fed-up,” according to Berger, who accused Blanquer of “mishandling” the pandemic in schools.

The rules changed again on Monday when Castex announced during an interview with French TV station France 2 that students would now only be required to take three self-administered Covid-19 tests at home.

If the first test was negative, children could return to school the next day, before taking the second test at home that evening, a French health ministry spokesperson confirmed to CNN on Thursday.

Another change announced by Castex means that as of Tuesday, parents of children who are close contacts of a positive case no longer need to pick up their children straight away and may wait until the end of the school day.

“We are informed by the media and not the minister,” said David, of the Combined National Union of Primary School Teachers.

French instructors and schools are “fed up,” stated David, who added that the fact the authorities “keep changing the rules” is “causing constant chaos in schools.”

She added that the testing procedure was “allowing the virus to easily enter the schools and was not protecting the teachers.”

CNN’s Niamh Kennedy and Arnaud Siad contributed to this report.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long included to this report.