why the government ultimately chose to close schools

He gave in. Emmanuel Macron announced, Wednesday March 31, the closure of nurseries, schools, colleges and high schools for three weeks, in order to curb the Covid-19 epidemic. The spring school holidays will therefore be unified throughout the metropolitan area, from April 12.

>> Covid-19: schools, vaccination, extended measures … What to remember from Emmanuel Macron’s speech on the health situation in France

The President of the Republic and the Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, have been saying for weeks that the closure of schools will only intervene as a last resort. The government was forced to change its strategy in the face of the force of the third wave which began to overwhelm some departments. Explanations.

Because the first steps are no longer enough

At the time of the first assessment of the braking measures, Emmanuel Macron was forced to face the facts, faced with the rise in curves. Two weeks after the application of the braking measures in 16 departing departments, the restrictive measures announced by Jean Castex on March 18 are struggling to show their effectiveness. For the three new departments concerned by the measures since last Thursday (Aube, Nièvre and Rhône), the decline seems insufficient.

On the other hand, for the others, it is possible to draw up a first assessment. In the Ile-de-France region, where the contaminations curves have soared throughout the month of March, slowdowns are starting to emerge, but the plateaus remain too high. In Hauts-de-France, the situation continues to deteriorate. Finally, in the Alpes-Maritimes, contaminations are on the rise.

Above all, the government has decided to take national measures, as more and more departments find themselves in the red. No less than 61 departments now display an incidence rate above the alert threshold, set at 250 by the authorities, whereas they were only 20 on March 1.

Because more and more voices were calling for it

As early as Wednesday morning, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, called for the closure of schools in the capital, in view of the health situation “very serious” and some “very great disorganization” in schools. The elected socialist thus joined other political leaders, such as Jean-Christophe Lagarde, UDI deputy for Seine-Saint-Denis, who demanded on Monday “the immediate closure of schools, colleges and high schools” in his department.

“The acceleration of class closures is galloping, schools are closing themselves in places and we see that nothing has been done upstream to stop it and curb the circulation of the virus in the establishments”, also lamented Wednesday Guislaine David, general secretary of Snuipp-FSU (first primary union). “The question of closure obviously arises for areas under pressure, we do not really see other solutions.”

Because class closures have multiplied

According to the latest figures published by the National Education, the number of closed classes jumped from one week to another. The ministry counted 3,256 on Friday March 26, ie 1,238 more than a week before, which represents an increase of more than 60%.

According to the Snes-FSU (first secondary school union) which lists the returns of some academies, the Créteil academy (on which the departments of Seine-Saint-Denis, Seine-et-Marne and Val-de-Marne depend) Wednesday had 659 closed classes, against 267 the day before. That of Versailles went from 82 to 313 closed classes in 24 hours. In Paris, “about 20,000 students” weren’t wednesday “not in class either because they are sick or because the classes are closed”, according to Anne Hidalgo. The number of closed classes stands at 850 against 246 on Sunday evening, said the mayor of Paris.

Because schools are singled out by some experts

For a year now, the question of children’s contagiousness has also continued to stir up debates among scientific experts. For Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva, schools are a “major places of contamination” at Covid-19. According to this epidemiologist, “for all respiratory viral diseases”, children “play a very important role”. “There is a lot of promiscuity, they are in rooms not very ventilated, the barrier gestures are more complicated for them to implement”, he detailed.

“I see on a daily basis that in a significant number of cases the parents are contaminated by the children. And the children are infected at school”, also affirms Djillali Annane, head doctor of the intensive care unit of the Raymond-Poincaré hospital in Garches (Hauts-de-Seine). “Over the past two weeks, the number of new cases of Covid-19 has doubled in children under the age of 9. I recall that for the past ten weeks, the incidence rate in the 10-19 age group years is higher than the national average. “

Conversely, Robert Cohen, president of the National Professional Council of Pediatrics, believes that schools are a minor place of contamination of children. Based on data from the Vigil study, of which he is the lead author, the doctor says that closing schools without strict confinement at the same time is only of interest. “very relative”, because the contaminations of children are “overwhelmingly” in an extracurricular environment. “Child-to-child transmission is very rare and child-to-adult transmission is also rare”, says Robert Cohen.

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