But as he announced the new restrictions, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin emphasized that schools and childcare facilities should stay open. "This is necessary because we cannot and will not allow our children and young people's futures to be another victim of his disease. They need their education," Martin said.There has been a similar story in many European countries including Germany, France and England, which made it their mission to keep in-person learning going, even as they imposed strict measures to combat the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. In contrast, major cities in the United States, including Detroit, Boston and Philadelphia, are shutting schools and moving classes online in a bid to stave off rising infection rates."There are rates of infection at which is too dangerous to keep schools open, and that has happened in a number of places in Europe," Anthony Staines, professor of Health Systems at Dublin City University, told CNN.But he said that the major response should be "effective, highly resourced public health.""Schools do spread this virus, but they're not a major route of spread," he added.Staines said it was appropriate for different places to employ different measures "because their economic situation is different, the spread of the virus is different." Israel, for example, faced major outbreaks linked to schools.School closures "may be part of a response for a period of time" but "with appropriate knowledge, information and understanding, closing schools is not required," he added."European countries have made a choice, I suppose, that trying to keep schools open is very important."
US school shutdowns
Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) announced Thursday it was suspending all face-to-face instruction because of the city's rapidly increasing infection rate. Classes will move entirely online, starting Friday until January 11. The DPSCD said the decision was made with the city's health department, after the infection rate neared 5% last week and has been increasing this week. If the rate improves, the district will consider reopening learning centers before January 11, it said in a statement.New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned at his Thursday briefing that the city is preparing to shut its schools if the test-positivity rate continues to increase.The city is currently seeing a 2.6% test-positivity rate on a seven-day average. De Blasio previously said schools would close if that figure reached 3%. The mayor said that if schools shut, "our hope would be to make it a very brief period of time," adding that despite growth in the positivity rate, there was still time to turn the number around. The School District of Philadelphia announced Tuesday all schools will remain fully virtual until further notice.The city's schools have been using digital learning since September 2 and were supposed to start the transition process to a hybrid model on November 17. Chief of Schools Evelyn Nunez told school leaders in a letter obtained by CNN that remote learning would continue for now, "to help safeguard the health and well-being of our staff, students and families."Boston public schools had begun a phased reopening, with the city's highest-need children returning from October 1. Three weeks later, just as kindergartners were due back, the city returned to remote learning."It was devastating for me to have to close the schools," Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told CNN's Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow at the time, citing the city's positivity rate moving from 4.4% to 5.7% in a week as the major factor.Walsh told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room the city felt the number was "a little on the edge there for us to continue to have in-person learning for our high-needs students. It was a really difficult decision."Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said in a statement she was "heartbroken" about closing schools. "Our families are desperate for these services for their children, many of whom are non-verbal and unable to use technology in the home," she said.Des Moines and Iowa City are also closing schools for two weeks.
Not all leaders believe that such a step is necessary, however. France and England entered month-long second national lockdowns on October 28 and November 4 respectively. In both countries, non-essential businesses, restaurants and bars have closed, with residents only allowed to leave home for work, medical reasons, exercise or grocery shopping.One key difference from the spring lockdowns in these two countries is that they have chosen to keep schools open.Amanda Spielman, chief education inspector at UK education watchdog Ofsted, said in a report published this week that the decision to keep schools open during England's second lockdown was "very good news indeed." "The impact of school closures in the summer will be felt for some time to come — and not just in terms of education, but in all the ways they impact on the lives of young people," she said.The Ofsted report, published on Tuesday, found that some children had seriously regressed because of school closures earlier in the year and restricted movement.It found that younsters without good support structures had in some cases lost key skills in numeracy, reading and writing. Some had even forgotten how to use a knife and fork, the report said. Some older children had lost physical fitness or were displaying signs of mental distress, with an increase in self-harm and eating disorders, while younger children had lapsed back into using diapers, it found.Some children in Europe, the US and across the world have been missing schooling during the pandemic because of a lack of access to technology — and it's hitting low-income students much harder."In places that have shut schools extensively, there is significant risk of educational interruption," Staines said, adding that "children from poorer and more deprived backgrounds lose more and take a lot longer to recover from what they've lost."He said school also "provides an extensive childminding service," allowing families to participate in the economy. A fall in referrals to social services also raised alarm in the UK that abuse may be going undetected. German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged this risk on October 28 when she announced a partial national lockdown to fight rising infections in the country, saying restaurants and bars would close and people should minimize contacts for four weeks from November 4.Merkel said schools and kindergarten would stay open, with strict hygiene measures, not only as "an educational mission," but because spring had shown "what dramatic social consequences it has when children cannot go to school or the daycare center.""This has a direct impact upon families. To say it clearly: Violent assaults against women and children have increased dramatically," the German leader said.The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported in August that children accounted for fewer than 5% of coronavirus cases in the European Union and UK. It said closures were unlikely to provide significant extra protection for children's health.While they may present a small risk to grandparents, Staines said, "the major risk to grandparents is the older adults in the house."Many European schools have introduced measures like ventilation, mask-wearing and holding classes outside or in small, distanced groups."Both Europe and the United States have made a mess of managing Covid," added Staines. "Lockdowns are not for controlling infections in populations, lockdowns buy you time to bring in public health measures. They buy you time to do contact tracing," he said."Make schools safe by making the rest of society safe. So as the rate of infection falls in the community, the risk of schools falls."
Nadine Schmidt, Maria Fleet, Amy Cassidy, Elizabeth Stuart, Annie Grayer, Evan Simko-Bednarski, Sheena Jones, Jennifer Henderson, Gregory Lemos, Barbara Wojazer, Lindsay Isaac and Claudia Otto contributed reporting.
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Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass
A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.
Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes”.
Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places.
The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.
Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.
The government says it expects the new rules to come into force on 15 January, although the opposition-dominated Senate could delay the process.
But demonstrators on Saturday accused the government of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.
Others targeted their anger at the president, Emmanuel Macron, over comments he made earlier this week in relation to unvaccinated citizens, telling Le Parisian newspaper that he wanted to “piss them off”.
One protester, hospital administrator Virginie Houget, told the Reuters news agency that Mr Macron’s remarks were “the last straw”.
And in Paris, where some 18,000 people marched against the new law, demonstrators responded to his coarse language by chanting: “We’ll piss you off”.
TV images showed altercations between protesters and police turning violent in some places. In Montpellier officers used teargas during clashes with the demonstrators.
Turnout for the protests was estimated to be about four times higher than the last major demonstrations on 18 December, when some 25,500 people marched across the country.
But despite the vocal protests, opposition to the new measures is not widespread and recent polling suggests the vast majority of people back the vaccine pass.
France is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Europe, with more than 90% of over-12s eligible for the shot fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections are rising rapidly across France as the new Omicron variant takes hold.
The country recorded more than 300,000 new cases for the second time in a week on Friday and admissions to intensive care wards are rising steadily, putting healthcare systems under strain.
Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against Covid-19.
Covid-19: ‘There is no choice between lives and livelihoods,’ OECD chief Gurría says
Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26
As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of t..
Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26
As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of the year, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development backs measures seen by many as tough. Ángel Gurría tells FRANCE 24: "If you win the battle against the virus first, you will have less economic consequences." He adds that "there is no choice between lives and livelihoods; it's a false dilemma".
Mexican economist Ángel Gurría has been Secretary-General of the OECD since 2006 – throughout the global financial crash and subsequent recovery.
With hopes now high for viable vaccines against Covid-19, he's telling world leaders that the solutions to health and economic crises must carry the elements of our solutions to the environmental crisis too: "The single most important inter-generational responsibility is with the planet. That means the recovery, where we are going to make investments that have an impact for the next 30, 40 years, must absolutely have the sustainability of the planet in mind".
On the recently announced Pfizer vaccine, Gurría says: "It is a game changer […] The possibility of a vaccine being close is of enormous consequence. We still have to wait for it to be finalised, approved and distributed in sufficient amounts that it can get everywhere, so we are calculating that we are going to spend most of 2021 still living with the virus. But it changes expectations; the whole mood has improved considerably since the announcement."
On the refusal of Donald Trump, leader of the OECD's biggest single funder, to concede defeat in the US presidential election, Gurría sounds an upbeat note: "I believe that we will have an orderly transition of power in the United States come 20th January 2021. I believe in the institutions in the United States, I believe that the political forces in the United States will eventually align."
Finally, as talks drag on over a new Brexit deal on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, Gurría says he still expects a deal to be struck: "I believe that the common interest will lead to a deal […] The impact in Europe is going to be limited to the trade with the UK. The impact in the UK is going to be very serious, not only because of the flows of trade and flows of investment, but also because the overall business mood will be affected. So I am still counting on a deal."
Produced by Mathilde Bénézet
Attacks in France and Austria: Europe’s response to extremism
Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24
Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42
This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The last few weeks have seen more bloodshed, with attacks in the Paris region, in Nice and in the Austrian capital Vienna. European leaders are looking for solutions: ways to stop hate being preached, broadcast and acted upon, while defending individual freedoms of speech and of conscience. In our debate we ask two leading members of the European Parliament, from France and from Austria, what they believe should be done.
Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats
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- Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
- Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe
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