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70 cases of Covid-19 linked to French schools days after reopening

France reopened about 40,000 preschools and primary schools last week, with classes capped at 15 students.

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Some French children have gone back to school (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

Some French children have gone back to school (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

Some French children have gone back to school (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

Just one week after a third of French children went back to school in an easing of the coronavirus lockdown, there has been a worrying flare-up of about 70 Covid-19 cases linked to schools.

Some schools were opened last week and a further 150,000 junior high students went back to the classroom on Monday as further restrictions were loosened by the government.

The move initially led to relief: The end of homeschooling for hundreds of thousands of exhausted French parents, many of whom were also working from home.

But French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer sounded the alarm on Monday, telling French radio RTL that the return has put some children in new danger of contamination. He said the affected schools are being closed immediately. French media reported that seven schools in northern France were closed.

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About 30% of children went back to school in France (Thibault Camus/AP)

About 30% of children went back to school in France (Thibault Camus/AP)

AP/PA Images

About 30% of children went back to school in France (Thibault Camus/AP)

It highlights the precarious situation the French government is finding itself in as it seeks both to reassure the public that the country is moving forward past coronavirus and to react prudently to safeguard public health.

Mr Blanquer did not specify if the 70 cases of Covid-19 were among students or teachers.

Given that the incubation period for the virus is several days, people are “likely” to have been infected before the reopening of schools, he said.

France reopened about 40,000 preschools and primary schools last week, with classes capped at 15 students.

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Children wash their hands at a primary school in France (Daniel Cole/AP)

Children wash their hands at a primary school in France (Daniel Cole/AP)

AP/PA Images

Children wash their hands at a primary school in France (Daniel Cole/AP)

About 30% of children went back to school, Mr Blanquer said. The government has allowed parents to keep children at home.

This week France is reopening junior high schools in “green” regions less affected by the virus, which do not include Paris.

Although the idea of children being silent “super-spreaders” has been largely debunked in recent analyses, last week France recorded its first death of a child linked to Kawasaki disease, a mysterious inflammatory syndrome that some doctors say could be triggered by Covid-19.

The nine-year-old boy was one of 125 children in France currently with the syndrome.

French authorities have reported at least 142,411 people infected with coronavirus and 28,108 deaths.

PA