France recorded 70 new coronavirus cases in schools, a week after it let more than 1 million kids go back to class

Children at Claude Debussy college in Angers, western France, on Monday.

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Children at Claude Debussy college in Angers, western France, on Monday.
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DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images
  • France has recorded 70 new cases of the novel coronavirus in schools that were allowed to reopen last week, the country’s education minister said on Monday.
  • After two months of lockdown, France has begun to lift restrictions, including the reopening of some shops and preschools and elementary schools with enhanced social distancing in place.
  • The minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, told the French radio station RTL that the new cases were “inevitable” but that “almost all” of the cases originated outside school.
  • He described the number as a very small proportion of the 1.4 million schoolchildren who had gone back.
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France has recorded 70 new cases of COVID-19 in schools that were allowed to reopen last week, the country’s education minister said on Monday.

France closed its school and higher-education institutes starting March 17 as part of the country’s measures to contain its coronavirus outbreak.

France had recorded more than 180,000 coronavirus cases and more than 28,000 deaths as of Monday.

After two months of lockdown, France has begun to lift restrictions, including the reopening of some shops and preschools and elementary schools.

According to France24, classes have been capped at 10 students for preschools and 15 students for other age groups.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told the French radio station RTL on Monday that 70 new cases of COVID-19 had been detected in the week since students came back, which he said was “inevitable.”

“It’s inevitable this sort of thing will happen,” he said. “In almost all cases, this [transmission] has happened outside of the school.”

Blanquer noted that the 70 cases were a small proportion of the 1.4 million schoolchildren who had returned. He said the affected schools would be closed immediately.

France is among several European countries, including Germany, Denmark, Norway, the Czech Republic, and Poland, that have started to lift lockdown measures, though many have warned that the process will be slow and closely monitored.

Denmark last month became the first European country to reopen schools, prompting parents to raise concerns that their children were being used as “guinea pigs” to test government policies.

Still, European officials have downplayed the risks of sending kids back to school, saying the alternative would be more harmful to students in the long run.

“There will be terrible damage if we lose a generation of children who have been stopped from going to school for several months,” Blanquer said, according to The Guardian.

On Monday, Blazenka Divjak, the minister for education in Croatia, said at a press conference that there hadn’t been a significant increase in cases since European schools opened their doors.

“So far we haven’t heard anything negative about the reopening of schools, but it is probably too early to have final conclusions on that,” she said.