France back to work

In the small rue du Télégraphe, at the top of Belleville hill in the 20 e district of Paris, the little school of the Telegraph will come back to life on Monday. Deserted for two months, the primary school will find its teachers, who will devote the first days to organize this rather special start of the school year. It will be necessary to arrange the chairs and tables more than a meter apart and plan routes avoiding contact as much as possible. As of Thursday, the first students will be welcomed on a voluntary basis, starting with the pivotal classes of the last year of kindergarten as well as the first and last year of elementary school.

A mother of two children aged three and five, Marta Blazquez is reluctant to send her older son, Simon, to school. “I think I'll wait a little longer, just to see how it goes. This young architect from Madrid is no exception.

Even if the government announced the end of general confinement from Monday, things are likely to be very progressive, especially in Paris. The capital is indeed part, along with Hauts-de-France, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and Grand-Est, regions always in red on the map of the epidemic. And that, even if the contagion is in strong regression there. Thus, in these four regions, the start of the secondary schools has been postponed to June, while it can be done from 18 May in most regions of the country. The parks will also remain closed.

With a balance sheet that borders on 26 000 dead, France therefore begins a very gradual deconfinement, mainly affecting businesses and small businesses. Travel will also remain limited to 100 kilometers around the place of residence. If all goes well, it's at the end of the month that we should know when the restaurants and bars will reopen.

A limited start of the school year

Of the six million primary school children, the 130 000 teachers who will be present Monday expect no more than a million, said the Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer. Marta will not be the only one to keep her children at home. It must be said that it is one of the 11 millions of French who will continue to enjoy until the end of June the ” Partial unemployment “. This allows an employer to continue to pay 84% of the wages of its employees while being reimbursed by unemployment insurance.

“I studied the back-to-school protocol for elementary and kindergarten children,” says Marta, “and it sounds delusional. I don't see how we can enforce barrier gestures for children of this age, she says. How can they stay three and a half meters apart at recess? If it is to force them to wash their hands every hour, it is not worth it. “

Jean-Michel Blanquer does not hide the fact that this “start of the school year” mainly targets parents who will have no choice but to send their children to school. But also to reestablish a link with these 5% of students with whom we have lost all contact. Teachers whose mission from the start of confinement is to organize online teaching and to contact each student at least once a week.

Even if Simon and Lou are only in kindergarten, Marta regularly received indications from their teachers offering exchanges and various activities. “We exchanged photos of our crafts and made videoconferences with the friends. Besides, Marta is not unhappy to have spent six weeks with her children. As Simon says, “The virus is mean to the sick. But he is nice to us, because we are all together! “

The rush in transport?

The other big problem that is likely to arise on Monday in the Paris region concerns transport. With five million daily bus, tram and metro users, transportation risks becoming a huge virus incubator. Especially since at startup, the service will not exceed 75%. Normally, the metro frequency is calculated so that there are approximately four passengers per square meter. It is calculated that from Monday, the network will only be able to support one million passengers per day. And again, on condition that we continue teleworking and staggering schedules, as the government has asked employers to do.

As of Monday, we could see strange queues lengthening in front of the metro stations. This is why, in the Paris region, rush hours will be reserved “for people with a certificate from their employer or with a compelling reason to travel,” said Transport Minister Élisabeth Borne. Ground markings have started to be made in order to respect the safety distances. But above all, the government, which has long claimed that the wearing of masks is useless for the general public, has resolved to make it compulsory in public transport under penalty of a fine of 135 euros (205 $ CAN).

All these decisions were not taken without friction, reports the magazine L’Express . As early as the end of April, officials warned the government that they could even stop service in the event of a health hazard. According to a Boston Consulting Group survey, one in four will choose to use their car. This fears huge traffic jams. This is why the government and the City of Paris are encouraging Parisians to go to work by bicycle. A budget of 20 million euros (30 million $ CAN) has been released for this purpose.

As of Monday, we will be walking a lot or taking our bikes in Paris. It must be said that these difficulties are nothing new for Parisians. Last December, a strike paralyzed almost all metros and buses. Which did not prevent the capital from continuing to live.