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Lifting lockdown

Macron says French life must get back to normal, albeit progressively

French President Emmanuel Macron visits a primary school outside Paris as the coronavirus lockdown is set to ease with partial lifting of restrictions such as the opening of primaries school, 5 May 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron visits a primary school outside Paris as the coronavirus lockdown is set to ease with partial lifting of restrictions such as the opening of primaries school, 5 May 2020. AFP - IAN LANGSDON

President Emmanuel Macron has visited a school in the Paris suburbs and spoken of his desire for life in France to get back to normal despite the presence of the coronavirus.

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Macron arrived at the Pierre de Ronsard primary school in Poissy, on the western fringes of the capital on Tuesday morning, accompanied by the education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer.

The school run comes as part of Macron's campaign to woo mayors who must make a decision whether to re-open classes in their areas  as part of the government's drive to ease lockdown measures from 11 May.

Sporting a dark blue mask, with small tricolour stripes on the side, Macron smiled and chatted with a small group of students sitting spaced well apart in a brightly lit classroom.

As he spoke, he touched his mask lightly, demonstrating how easy it is to be tempted to move it during the day – a gesture that they would need to avoid.

Then he used hand sanitizer and told the children they must be very careful that the virus does not get spread from tiny droplets landing on their hands or face.

No school exacerbates inequalities

"In a child's life, staying at home for two months is a traumatising experience," he told French television channels T1 and France 2, after the classroom visit.

"There are children who give up ... there are social inequalites, compounded with inequalites regarding accommodation."

He went on to thank school staff for their dedication and efforts adapting to distance learning, as well as those who had volunteered to return to their classrooms next week.

Flexible timetable

"My objective is that all children who need to return to school, can find a school open with an adapted timetable," said Macron.

"It's not the number of schools that counts but that we see successful examples."

Most school children in France stopped classes on 13 March, several days before the official lockdown came in to place.

Since then, only small groups of children have been able to attend classes, a minimum service designed to cater for the children of 'frontline' workers in sectors such as health, the food industry, transport and security.

But mayors in towns in the Ile-de-France region - the area surrounding Paris - are concerned.

They voiced their fears in a letter to the president on Monday calling for a postponement of the proposed return to school. They claim it is impossible to guarantee adequate health and safety measures in such a short time.

Collective effort

Macron acknowledged that the danger of the virus was still present and that people should remain vigilant, especially older citizens or people with fragile health.

He stressed that getting schools open was to be a progessive and collective effort, based on regular consultation with mayors and school directors.

He said that surveys among parents had begun in order to find out which children should be a priority list such as single-parent families, or children struggling with their schoolwork.

 

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