French teachers walk out in protest of relaxed COVID-19 rules

French teachers on Thursday staged a walkout to protest COVID-19 rules that they say are not enough to protect them against the omicron variant. 

The Education Ministry said that almost 40 percent of elementary school teachers and nearly 25 percent of secondary school teachers were striking, The New York Times reported

Unions put those numbers even higher and added that about half of elementary schools were expected to close. Most of the country’s teaching unions supported the walkout, the Times reported.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron’s government has been proud of its ability to keep its schools open more than other European countries throughout the pandemic. 

“I fundamentally believe the choice that we made to keep schools open is the right choice,” Macron said on Tuesday, the Times reported.

The president’s remarks followed Prime Minister Jean Castex’s announcement earlier this week that pandemic-related policies would be loosened.

Specifically, parents would not need to pick up their children immediately if a classmate tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, children exposed to the virus could take at-home tests to return to class rather than having to test at a pharmacy or lab, according to the newspaper.

France currently has an average of 300,000 new daily COVID-19 cases, a figure higher than at any other point during the pandemic and nearly six times daily averages seen a month ago, the Times noted. 

The country’s uptick in infections has prompted closures in over 10,000 French classrooms. French authorities have said that tens of thousands of students are currently infected with the virus.

Tags Emmanuel Macron France school openings teachers unions

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