France remains loyal to school openings despite the rise in infections

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PARIS (AP) – The French president insisted on Thursday that the country would send millions of students back to school from September 1, despite the largest weekly peak in confirmed cases of coronavirus since the peak of its epidemic national in March and April.

President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also pledged at a joint press conference that European countries will work more closely in the coming weeks to coordinate virus protection measures and vaccine supply. A wave of chaotic border closures followed when the virus first swept across the continent.

France’s national health agency reported 4,771 new infections on Thursday and more than 18,000 new cases in the past week – the biggest weekly increase since April. Authorities attributed the increase to summer vacation parties and family reunions, and clusters of workplaces emerging as people returned to their jobs after a strict lockdown.

Teachers and parents in France are increasingly concerned that schools may be able to keep the virus at bay with children in the classroom. A leading teachers’ union this week called on the government to delay the start of the school year.

“The return to school will take place” in the coming days, Macron said. “We will not stop our countries, but we will have to learn to live with the virus.”

Germany reported 1,707 new cases daily on Thursday, which officials blamed on travelers returning from other countries and private meetings. Germany’s death toll from the pandemic, at 9,253, remains well below the 30,480 virus-related deaths reported in France.

Several German states have reopened schools and several schools have had to close classes or all of their buildings again because students or teachers subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Merkel said she and Macron agreed “that we need to work much more closely together so that people feel that something is being done” at the European level to tackle the pandemic.

“If German high school graduates don’t celebrate in Germany because they’re not allowed to, but can travel to other countries where it’s going great, then it won’t work well in the long run.” She said.

Macron said that “there is no reason” to close French borders again and that European partners must harmonize security rules and “avoid the mistakes we made earlier in the crisis”.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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