France promises FFP2 masks and more workers after teachers strike

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

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

Tens of thousands of teachers and school staff went on strike on Thursday to express their dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Several teachers and school staff told Euronews that the situation in schools was dire, with one teacher describing the lack of staff and masks as “catastrophic”.

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

Benjamin Grandiner, co-secretary of the Rhone branch of one of France’s largest education unions, told Euronews that the situation in the schools was “absolute chaos”.

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

Education Minister Blankere said late Thursday that the government would make five million FFP2 masks available to teachers “who need them,” particularly those working with young, unmasked children.

He did not say whether the government would provide surgical masks to school workers, one of the strikers’ main demands.

Blanquer added that upcoming assessments of primary school students, scheduled for next week, will be delayed due to the health crisis.

For high school students, the government will begin consultations on whether to postpone specialized 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 the response (and) our ability to humbly acknowledge that nothing is perfect, that we can of course make things better and that’s what we will keep trying,” Blanquer said.

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