Most of our European neighbors reopened their schools in early January, and several are recommending that students and their families conduct regular self-tests at home to check for possible infections and quickly self-isolate.
Should schools be closed or opened? This question has been repeated regularly since the start of the pandemic and the government has clearly shown its preference for the second proposal. But the executive remains highly criticized on the subject, especially with the presentation of the latest protocols. On Monday evening, the prime minister announced a new one, the third in ten days. From now on, if a student is positive in a class, all his classmates are contact cases and they must perform three self-tests: one on the same day, then one on D+2 and one on D+4.
“Nothing is more dramatic than closing our schools,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told the National Assembly on Tuesday. He also assured that French schools remained open “twice as many as in Germany, three times as many as in Italy and four times as many as in the United States”.
If many of our neighbors have indeed closed their classes in recent months due to the spread of the Delta variant, most have reopened them early this year.
Self-testing at home
This is the case in the Netherlands where, after two weeks of confinement in late December, its schools reopened on Monday, with social distancing measures and wearing a mask when traveling in the establishment.
To prevent the virus from spreading at school, the government is using testing as a means of prevention: primary and secondary pupils are therefore asked to do a ‘self-test’ at home twice a week, even if ‘they show no symptoms, are vaccinated and/or have already had a coronavirus”, the website of the national government states. If the test is positive, the student and his family must isolate themselves.
Also in Germany, where schools are also open, staff and students are encouraged to test themselves twice a week with self-tests, and to isolate themselves immediately if the test is positive.
A test after returning from vacation
The British government, which has also left schools open, also encourages teachers and secondary school students to test themselves twice a week with self-tests in its recommendations. In case of complaints (waiting for a negative test) or of course if you test positive, you must stay at home. If a pupil is positive, it is the Public Health Agency (NHS) that is responsible for finding contact cases in the school environment. And it is recommended that contact cases from the age of 5 are self-tested every day for seven days to check if they are infected.
The United Kingdom has also asked students to submit a negative test when they return from the Christmas holidays, so that they can go back to class.
In Belgium, since the last start of the school year, in kindergarten and lower, “a class must be quarantined for 5 days as soon as 4 (or 25% of the class) infected cases (with or without symptoms) in this class” It is also recommended that families conduct weekly self-tests.
In Italy, the FFP2 mask as a contact case
In Italy, schools have reopened despite new restrictions on unvaccinated people. Under new rules from the Ministry of Education, a class in kindergartens must close for ten days if a student tests positive. If a positive case is detected in primary schools, all students must take a test on the same day, then on D+5. Lessons are only scheduled remotely if at least two or more cases are identified in the same class.
In high school (secondary and middle school), the rules become more complicated: with a positive case, students continue with face-to-face lessons, but must wear an FFP2 mask. In two cases, those who do not have a full vaccination schedule must continue with distance education. The face-to-face lesson is closed for ten days from three cases.
Spain, in comparison with these European countries, seems much less strict. Indeed, since the beginning of January, in primary and kindergarten, a class is only closed if five or more cases are discovered, as reported El Pais†