French autotests gone mad (19/1/2022)

#PARISFOMO and other funny stories from France
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So the hot potato of the moment in France is what to do about the schools. Schools, it would appear, seem to be frequented by those germy little monsters who lick the banisters and don’t seem to know that there is a pandemic going on.

Up until now, French schools have actually been doing quite well. Last school year, my little ones in maternelle (preschool-kindergarten) missed a total of 1 week of in-person school, and 2 weeks where their leisure centre was closed.

At their age, they have never logged on for an online class. Pretty darn good on average, especially compared to some other countries in Europe and North America. (And this is with children under 6 being exempt from wearing masks.)

“Schools are the center of the République and should be the last to close, and first to open”, proclaimed the govt. and pretty much stuck to that.

And even now French schools are still open when we are at a stratospheric 460k+ positive cases per day here in France. (Have I mentioned it is an election year?)

The government has been quite proud of their ability to keep schools open, with a majority of the electorate supporting that decision.

Until the big national teachers’ strike last Thursday, of course. (There are big strikes, and there are “big” strikes. This is technically somewhat of a “medium” for a strike in France. Big enough to be noticed, not big enough to send out the riot police on the Champs Elysées.)

The problem is that the new protocol to “keep the schools open” in the face of Omicron is a bit complicated to say the least.

If a kid tested positive:

  • their classmates would have to first take a PCR/antigen test on Day 0,
  • then 2 autotests on Day 2 and Day 4,
  • while quarantining for 5-7 days before being allowed back in school.
  • And if another kid in class tested positive a couple of days later, the cycle would start all over again.

So as you can imagine, a colleague who has 4 kids was queuing up at the pharmacy everyday. The only positive thing here is that the tests were free.

And in terms of administration, the school principal and teachers would have to track it all, and collect signed “attestations of honor” from the parents that their child was not positive” (If you are wondering, “boondoggle” in French would be “usine à gaz”.)

To make things worse, news broke yesterday that French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer who issued these protocols did so at the last minute from, of all places, Ibiza. (I should perhaps mention it was also a pre-wedding trip, as he also got married for the 3rd time a couple of days later. Yes, the multi-tasking ability of this man apparently knows no bounds. “Scandal” in French would be “scandale”.)

Anyway, with even pharmacists and nurses starting to complain about the numbers of excruciatingly loud children wailing in their offices as yet another stick was being stuck up their nose, this protocol was then hastily revised to:

  • 3 autotests on Day 0, Day 2 and Day 4,
  • while quarantining for 5-7 days before being allowed back in school.
  • And if another kid in class tested positive the following week, the cycle would start all over again.

Now at least all the wailing would contained to those parents’ homes. Oh and that 460K+ number I mentioned earlier? It also has the benefit of not including all these “autotests”.

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