Millions of French children returned to school Tuesday under new safety regulations, despite a recent rise in virus infections, in a nationwide experiment aimed at bridging inequality and reviving the economy.
From his social media accounts, French President Emmanuel Macron urged people to wear masks. In an Instagram video, directed at France's more than 12 million schoolchildren heading to school, Macron said while wearing a mask, "The virus is still there, and you have to protect yourself."
On Twitter, Macron wrote: “The challenges of this new school year are numerous, but we are finally all together! Let us show the same responsibility as in recent months. Welcome back everyone!”
Masks are required throughout the school day — breaks and music classes included — for all students 11 and over, and all teachers and school staff. Hand-washing stations, social distancing and staggered play time also are part of the new routine.
Teachers and parents alike expressed concern about the new regulations and what they would mean for the upcoming school year but generally supported the preventative rules.
Masks also are mandatory starting Tuesday in all French workplaces, as the government encourages parents to return to their jobs while trying to keep infections under control.
France reported 3,082 new coronavirus cases Monday, down from recent days, but still higher than European neighbors and well above the few hundred daily cases reported in May and June, before summer holidays sent infections rising again. France has more than 30,600 deaths related to the virus.
Nations across Europe are seeking ways to get children back into the classroom safely and their economies functioning once again. At the same time, officials have expressed fears of a “second wave” of infections as people go inside and spend more time together as the fall season arrives.