French students back to school, joy overshadowed by fear of worsening epidemic situation
The new school year kicked off on Monday in France where millions of students went back to classroom amid worrying epidemic situation, with safety concerns overshadowing the joy of "la rentree."
In Albert Camus elementary school in Val-d'Oise department, one of the regions classified as red zone for the coronavirus, all the parents and teachers wore masks. Students arrived and left at different times to avoid the mixing of class groups and limit the contact of parents.
"In an unprecedented context, we start the new school year with unprecedented measures. It's a great pleasure to see all the children back to school," Patricia Gouasdoue, the school director, told Xinhua.
"It's necessary to continue learning with the virus, but 'risk zero' doesn't exist," she added.
Nolan, a 9-year-old boy, was happy to meet his friends and teachers he had last seen in early March before schools closed to stem the outbreak.
"It's good to see friends again, work with the teacher in the classroom like before," he said before joining his classmates for a bike race.
But for Nolan's mother, the picture is not so rosy amid worsening sanitary indicators, although she decided to send her son to school as she found that home-schooling was too hard a task.
"Things are not going well and I suppose with the return to schools, which means more contacts, the situation won't improve," she said.
"Nothing is guaranteed unless a vaccine or a treatment is discovered. In the meantime, I'm trying to live with my family as normal as possible, but with such epidemic it's so stressful," she added.
Coronavirus infections has surged in France in recent weeks, particularly among young people, prompting the government to order the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors and in workplace.
On Monday, France reported 3,082 new coronavirus cases, bringing the tally to 281,025. The number of clusters being investigated had increased by 16 to 375.
Under the government's back-to-school plan, students aged over 11 must wear face masks all time, including in classrooms. Schools have to limit the flow of pupils and parents during the rush for arrival and departure. In addition, classrooms should be regularly disinfected and ventilated.
"The government has taken all the necessary measures to allow the new school year to start with the most normal conditions possible even if the virus is still here," Prime Minister Jean Castex said early Tuesday.
"Parents, teachers, students must feel reassured, we will act wherever necessary," he pledged.
A group of 21 doctors, however, warned in a column published recently in Le Parisien newspaper, that "the protocol planned for the start of the school year does not protect staff, students and their families, and is insufficient to slow the current increase in the number of new cases of COVID-19."