May 22, 2022

two years of rough statements

Thursday, January 27, the national education unions called for a new day of strike and mobilization for a salary increase and more means of protection against Covid-19. Despite the confirmation, in mid-January, of an order for 5 million FFP2 masks and a recruitment plan for 8,000 people, the Minister of National Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer remains criticized for his school protocols too fluctuating and illegible, but also for its management deemed rigid of the Covid-19 epidemic.

If the cabinet of Jean-Michel Blanquer assures that it is not a question of defending an opening at all costs of schools, “but to have a balanced response informed by scientific knowledge and aimed at preserving the interests of children”, it appears that Mr. Blanquer has taken the opposite view of the scientific data on several occasions, and has multiplied the assertions minimizing the risks of contamination at school.

Contacted on these errors and shortcuts, the minister’s office is justified by a “context of a totally unprecedented health crisis” and “the constant evolution of knowledge around this epidemic ».

  • During the second wave, contagions at school minimized

At the time of the second wave of the epidemic, in November 2020, when several epidemiologists were worried about sources of contamination at school, Jean-Michel Blanquer evokes, on RTL, 3,528 positive students out of 12 million, “a figure that is under control”.

A number off the mark

During the same period, Public Health France (SpF) reported more than 25,000 positive cases in children under 19, as we noted at the time. The reason for this discrepancy? A small discrepancy, which remains marginal, for 0-3 year olds and 18-19 year olds, but above all an under-declaration of cases at the level of the rectorates, which have only a partial vision of the situation. The Minister had then chosen the most biased figure, but the most reassuring.

The cabinet of Jean-Michel Blanquer evokes an indicator which includes “necessarily differences” compared to SPF data, but ” complementary “, and with “consistent tendencies”. He also specifies that more precise indicators have since been put in place.

  • In April 2021, confusion between the indicators

At the start of the third wave, in March 2021, the Minister of National Education stated on LCI that “the incidence rate in French schools is 0.35%” and he deduces that“We get infected less in schools than in the rest of society”.

An imprecise definition

As explained The world, while the first screening campaigns by saliva tests were deployed in establishments, Jean-Michel Blanquer confused two different health indicators: the incidence rate, which makes it possible to know the circulation of Covid-19 in relation to the whole of the population, and the positivity rate, that is to say the number of people infected with the virus compared to the number of tests carried out. His cabinet evokes a misunderstanding: “The Minister indicated that the positivity rates during these campaigns were 0.35%. Commentators [Jean-Jacques Bourdin] deduced that this was equivalent to an incidence of 500 which was quite inaccurate. »

  • Self-congratulations on the opening of schools

Jean-Michel Blanquer regularly boasts of having allowed France to be the OECD country which closed schools the least during the pandemic, as he repeated again, in July 2021, at the Figaro. A grossly exaggerated claim.

France well placed, but not first

The calculations of BFM-TV, based on figures from Unesco, showed that the country champion of the opening of schools was not France, but Switzerland. At the beginning of 2022, with thirteen weeks of total or partial closure of schools, when Mexico is nearly seventy, France remains among the good students of the OECD. But it remains behind Switzerland and Iceland (just over six weeks).

  • Too definitive on the effect of vaccination

Jean-Michel Blanquer joined the majority’s peremptory speech on the ability of vaccines against Covid-19 to stop all transmission. “When you are vaccinated you do not risk infecting others, whereas if you are not vaccinated you run this risk », he explained in July 2021 to Franceinfo, to justify that unvaccinated students are confined to distance learning.

Exaggerated, and less and less true

As AFP Factual reminded us at the time, if vaccination does indeed reduce the risk of being infected, it does not make it disappear completely. In defense of Jean-Michel Blanquer, the vaccine escape has been more important since the Omicron variant has imposed itself, and was much less so when he spoke. However, as pointed out then The world, an Israeli study already assessed the effectiveness against contamination at 90%, not 100%. “While there is scientific debate on the level of reduction in the transmissibility of the virus for vaccinated people, there is consensus that vaccination reduces the risk of contracting Covid-19 as well as the risk of transmitting it. and very strongly limits the serious forms of the disease”, now reformulates the minister’s cabinet.

  • The good vaccination coverage of teachers

In November 2021, Jean-Michel Blanquer affirms on BFM-TV that more than 90% of teachers are vaccinated – both to reassure parents, but also to avoid making vaccination compulsory.

No official figures to attest to this

Problem: there is no official figure to follow the evolution of vaccination coverage by profession. As noted 20 Minutes, the Minister of National Education relies on a declarative survey of August 2021 carried out by Ipsos: 78% of the five hundred teachers surveyed then claimed to have a complete vaccination schedule and 9% planned to receive a second dose. Datas “necessarily imprecise because of the method used”, abstract The Parisian, but which did not prevent the minister from being affirmative.

  • Teachers less contaminated?

More recently, Jean-Michel Blanquer also assured, about teachers, on January 3, 2022 on LCI, that “All the surveys show us that it is a profession less contaminated than the others, precisely because it is also more responsible, with respect for barrier gestures, etc. »

Studies that say the opposite

As noted 20 Minutes, the Minister of National Education relies on a study by the Institut Pasteur carried out in the winter of 2020-2021, which is confirmed by the Minister’s office in World. She considered that “teachers do not seem to have an increased risk”, but called for extreme caution in the face of data deemed “fragile”. At the same time, a study by the Directorate for the Animation of Research, Studies and Statistics (Dares, which depends on the Ministry of Labor), carried out in January 2021, places teachers among the “Nineteen professional families most affected by Covid-19 in connection with work”.

Similarly, according to a study carried out in the winter of 2020-2021 by Sciensano, a research center and the National Institute of Public Health in Belgium, all professions combined, the professional sector of education is the third most affected by the Covid-19, behind public administration, health and social action.

Also listen Jean-Michel Blanquer, a weakened minister

Update of January 27, 2021 at 3 p.m.: addition of responses from the Minister’s office, received after publication.