50 French schools have closed due to coronavirus cases, but it is likely these infections happened before schools reopened

27th May 2020

Claim

50 schools in France have closed since mass reopenings last week due to new coronavirus outbreaks.

Conclusion

This is true but it’s unlikely children were infected at schools.

A Facebook post claiming that 50 schools in France have closed due to new cases of Covid-19, after having reopened in the week beginning 11 May has been shared thousands of times.

“Since their reopening last week, 50 schools in France have been forced to close again after cases, or suspected cases of covid 19 have been found.”

Facebook post, 19 May 2020

The screenshot shows an article from French news channel BFMTV’s website.French media reported last week that schools across the country had to postpone reopening, or close after opening due to coronavirus cases. 70 cases were linked to schools, although it’s unclear how this was split between staff and students.

While the school claims are not wrong, they require context. 

When reporting the new cases, French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said it was likely that those who with Covid-19 had been infected before schools reopened. He said the 70 cases were across 40,000 schools that had opened since 11 May.  As the coronavirus incubation period, which is how long it potentially takes between getting infected and first showing symptoms, is thought to be 14 days, this seems likely.

These cases also represent a very small proportion of the number of students who returned to school. About 1.4 million returned to school in France, with an unknown number of teaching staff. Obviously any coronavirus cases are worrying, but this is not a huge number of people with symptoms.

In a meeting of education ministers from across the EU, they were told that reopening schools in 22 countries had not led to a large increase in Covid-19 cases in children.

However, it is very early in the process for French authorities to know the true effect of reopening schools.