Contamination in School: Are the Official Numbers Underestimated?

The Basics The epidemic surveillance markers show unprecedented levels among the youngest, especially in the departments where the virus is actively circulating. What is surprising about the role of schools in the transmission of the virus?

The use of saliva tests in elementary schools, which began after the February break, should enable close monitoring of the spread of Covid-19 and its variants in schools. A month later, and despite reassuring official figures, doubts have surfaced.

And for good reason, the incidence rate of the virus among those under 10 in Île-de-France has doubled in recent days, according to the Ministry of National Education’s website. Also this week, Jean-Michel Blanquer moved forward to assure the troops the official positivity rate of the tests in schools, which was somewhere “between 0.35% and 0.5%”. A rate that is well below the national average of around 8%.

Volunteering distorts the results

Which seriously questions the relevance of the figures obtained thanks to the tests carried out in the school environment, despite a strategy that should allow “on paper” to get a fairly accurate representation of the situation in our schools. “We are primarily using saliva testing in areas where the virus is actively spreading, but we are also monitoring 300 facilities across the country that are doing tests every two weeks to get an objective view of the situation,” let us know, the ministry .

However, the principle of volunteering completely calls into question the reliability of the monitoring. “The acceptance rate of saliva tests in the primary area is between 70% and 80% and that of nasopharynx tests in the secondary area between 15% and 25%,” said the ministry. Which, in the opinion of many, greatly skews the results.

No interest in being tested

“In Haute-Garonne, for example, there were test campaigns at two high schools in February. Out of 750 students and staff tested in each facility, there were no positive results, ”recalls Cyril Lepoint, academic secretary of SE-Unsa in Toulouse. “Statistically, that’s impossible. Either the reliability of the antigen tests is questionable, or we can assume that those who wanted to be vaccinated had no symptoms and just wanted to be reassured. “”

According to the unionist, this was inevitable. “Although they have symptoms, parents often cannot afford to babysit their children instead of sending them to school for work. And in college or high school it is very often the students who are not interested in Covid so as not to miss too many lessons, especially if the patent or the Bac expires at the end of the year. … “

It is therefore difficult to really explain the spread of the virus in schools even if the government wants, which some people doubt, without hiding it. Once again on Tuesday, Jean Castex reaffirmed this in front of the MEPs of the majority: “The schools, we will close them last. “”

Advanced April vacation?

Will the April break be brought forward to curb the spread of the virus in schools? This is the proposal made by Valérie Pécresse on March 24th.
The president of the Île-de-France region therefore proposed to the prefect of Paris to extend the school holidays in Île-de-France by 15 days. “I wonder if the right measure is not to bring the school holidays 15 days forward in order to close schools from April 2nd,” stressed the former Minister for Higher Education and Research (2007-2011).
In an interview for Paris Match, she also regretted that the new detention in Paris has not sparked a wave of massive returns to teleworking.