France reopens colleges as virus sufferers numbers peak

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France reopens schools as virus patients numbers peak

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to students during a visit with French Minister for Education, Youth and Sport Jean-Michel Blanquer (right) at a school in Melun, south of Paris, on Monday April 26, 2021. The kindergarten and the primary school reopened on Monday across from France after a three-week closure as the first step out of the country's partial lockdown. In the meantime, students are following online classes. (AP Photo / Thibault Camus, pool)

Kindergartens and elementary schools across France reopened on Monday after a three-week closure in the first step of the country's partial lockdown, despite the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units reaching their highest level since last spring.

The French authorities argue that the daily number of new infections has decreased, providing encouraging signs of the impact of the restrictions imposed earlier in the month.

Schools have been closed since April 5 as the government decided to bring the Easter holiday date forward to help slow the spread of the virus.

The domestic travel ban will be lifted from next week. The night curfew, now from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. is maintained.

"We will gradually reopen," said President Emmanuel Macron when he attended a primary school in Melun south of Paris on Monday. "We're going to do this very slowly to avoid (the virus) spreading again."

Macron said he anticipates a better situation next month, when more of the population will be vaccinated and the expected decrease in the number of daily infections after the partial lockdown.

When asked by a child about the curfew, Macron said, "We're going to try to delay it a little (at night) … because it's 7pm."

France is reopening schools as the number of virus patients is highest
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to students during a visit with French Minister for Education, Youth and Sport Jean-Michel Blanquer (right) at a school in Melun, south of Paris, on Monday April 26, 2021. The kindergarten and the primary school reopened on Monday across from France after a three-week closure as the first step out of the country's partial lockdown. In the meantime, students are following online classes. (AP Photo / Thibault Camus, pool)

France intends to gradually reopen unneeded shops, some of its cultural facilities and café and restaurant terraces from mid-May.

Authorities are reporting more than 30,000 confirmed viral infections daily, compared to about 40,000 earlier this month. Nevertheless, the French hospitals are still almost overwhelmed with almost 6,000 seriously ill patients in French intensive care units. And France has reported more than 100,000 COVID-19 deaths.

More than 14 million people in France have received at least one dose of vaccine, around 26% of the adult population.

Dr. Eric Caumes, director of infections and tropical diseases at Paris's Pitie Salpetriere Hospital, said he thought it "not very sensible" to reopen the country now.

"The numbers are not very encouraging," he said on the BFM news channel. "They have only lost weight in certain places and say that we are easing the precautionary measures, although the numbers have not yet fallen – we obviously have concerns."

  • France is reopening schools as the number of virus patients is highest
    French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to students during a visit with French Minister for Education, Youth and Sport Jean-Michel Blanquer at a school in Melun, south of Paris, on Monday April 26, 2021. The kindergarten and primary school were opened Reopened on Monday across France after a hiatus, three-week closure as the first step out of the country's partial lockdown. In the meantime, students are following online classes. (AP Photo / Thibault Camus, pool)
  • France is reopening schools as the number of virus patients is highest
    French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to a student during a visit with French Minister for Education, Youth and Sport Jean-Michel Blanquer (right) at a school in Melun, south of Paris, on Monday April 26, 2021. The kindergarten and elementary schools reopened across France on Monday after a three-week closure in the first step out of the country's partial lockdown. In the meantime, students are following online classes. (AP Photo / Thibault Camus, pool)
  • France is reopening schools as the number of virus patients is highest
    French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to a student during a visit with French Minister for Education, Youth and Sport Jean-Michel Blanquer (right) at a school in Melun, south of Paris, on Monday April 26, 2021. The kindergarten and elementary schools reopened across France on Monday after a three-week closure in the first step out of the country's partial lockdown. In the meantime, students are following online classes. (AP Photo / Thibault Camus, pool)
  • France is reopening schools as the number of virus patients is highest
    French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to students during a visit with French Minister for Education, Youth and Sport Jean-Michel Blanquer at a school in Melun, south of Paris, on Monday April 26, 2021. The kindergarten and primary school were opened Reopened on Monday across France after a hiatus three-week closure in the first step out of the country's partial lockdown. In the meantime, students are following online classes. (AP Photo / Thibault Camus, pool)

When schools reopen, all French teachers and school employees will receive two self-administered virus tests per week to be carried out at home, the Ministry of Education said in a statement. In addition, students can be tested once a week at school, with more tests gradually being introduced for younger students.

In a Paris school on Monday morning, parents brought their children with them, relieved and worried.

"To be honest, we don't worry as much about the younger ones in elementary schools. We are more concerned about the other children in secondary schools, where I think the situation can be more complicated," said Parisian Jerome Keff .

Middle and high school students are taking online classes this week. You will be back in schools on May 3rd.

France sent all 12 million of its school children back to class from September to April, so many schools have failed to develop distance learning tools and national distance learning sites were saturated or hacked when they resumed online classes earlier this month.

Some slowdowns were also reported on Monday – and around 1,000 people using a central key network have been asked to reset their passwords, the ministry said. By the afternoon, 1.3 million people had successfully registered for online classes.

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