France promises FFP2 masks and more workers after teachers strike

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France’s education minister said the government would provide five million FFP2 masks and hire 3,300 contract workers following a nationwide education strike.

Jean-Michel Blanquer said that the government understood there was “fatigue related to all the challenges of the health crisis” following a meeting with education unions.

Tens of thousands of teachers and school workers had gone on strike on Thursday to express their discontent with the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Multiple teachers and school workers told Euronews that the situation in schools was overwhelming, with one high school teacher describing the lack of personnel and masks as “catastrophic”.

Many also criticised the government’s changing of protocol for contacts of children who test positive for COVID-19 as France reports more than 300,000 daily cases of the virus.

Benjamin Grandener, co-secretary for the Rhône chapter of one of the largest French education unions, told Euronews that the situation in schools was an “absolute mess”.

He said the government’s policy this week to have students in classes with COVID cases to self-test three times in a week was not applicable because pharmacies had run out of the tests.

Education minister Blanquer said late on Thursday the government would provide five million FFP2 masks for teachers who “need them”, particularly those who work with young children who are unmasked.

He did not say whether the government would provide surgical masks to school workers, one of the main requests of those on strike.

Blanquer added that the upcoming evaluations for primary school students, meant to take place next week, would be delayed due to the health crisis.

For high school students, the government will begin consultations on whether to delay specialised exams currently planned for March.

“The best response to this virus is our national unity which is also based on a good shared understanding of the challenges of responding (and) our capacity to admit with humility that nothing is perfect, that we can of course make things better and that’s what we will continue to try to do,” Blanquer said.

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