France tightens classroom closure protocols in high COVID risk regions

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FILE PHOTO: A placard with information about the coronavirus is displayed in front of a school in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - France will send a school class home once one COVID-19 infection is detected among its pupils, instead of three previously, in regions under tighter coronavirus restrictions, the education minister said on Friday.

Jean-Michel Blanquer said the new measure would come into force from next week in 19 departments with high coronavirus risks.

Since France began to impose new lockdowns in local regions last week to contain the spread of more contagious variants, the government has stuck with its stance to keep school closure as the last resort.

Blanquer told reporters that keeping schools and colleges open in France remained a "fundamental goal" for the government.

He said 148 schools out of 60,000 in the country were closed on Thursday.

The government said on Thursday that three additional French regions including the Rhone department around the city of Lyon would be put under tighter restrictions for four weeks.

The move followed similar measures imposed a week earlier on the Paris region and a large part of northern France, where most non-essential stores have been ordered to close and people are limited in how far they can travel from their homes.

(Reporting by Matthieu Protard; Editing by Alison Williams)