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Coronavirus

Primary teachers' union calls for strike in Paris as COVID-19 surges

FILE PHOTO: School children attend a COVID-19 saliva test in a primary school in Nice, as part of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing campaign in France, March 8, 2021. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - The main trade union representing French primary school teachers called on Thursday for a strike in Paris over what it says is the government’s failure to protect staff and pupils from a third wave of coronavirus infections tearing through the country.

The government has prided itself on keeping schools open during most of the epidemic, while some neighbouring countries have closed theirs for months at a time, but it is coming under mounting pressure to act as cases surge.

“The (education) minister can congratulate himself that schools have stayed open ... but at what price?!” the SNUipp-FSU said in a statement.

The strike would affect Paris and its outer areas, although no date has yet been set, the union said.

The call for a walkout reflects growing concern among many health workers and teachers that the government is not doing enough to slow the COVID-19 spread after President Emmanuel Macron’s refusal so far this year to impose a third nationwide lockdown.

Closing schools would be an act of last resort, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday. Valerie Pecresse, who heads the Ile de France region encompassing Paris and its surrounds, has proposed bringing forward the April school holiday by two weeks.

The latest government data, published on March 19, showed 15,484 schoolchildren tested positive for coronavirus in the preceding week, or 0.13% of all pupils.

The Ile de France, which accounts for nearly a fifth of France’s population and 30% of economic growth, is one of the hardest hit parts of France as the virus once again sweeps across Western Europe.

A nightly curfew is in place and restaurant, bars, museums and cinemas are closed across the country. Last week the government closed non-essential stores and limited people’s movement in the Paris region and swathes of the north. It says more time is needed to see what impact the tighter curbs will have.

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Frances Kerry

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