France is entering phase 3 of its progressive end of lockdown and life is returning to almost near normal.
Almost all schools reopen today and classes are obligatory even though there are only two weeks left until the end of the school year.
Since the end of the strict lockdown on 11 May, the return to school has been voluntary and subject to regulations, including a maximum of 15 pupils per class and a minimum distance of 1 metre between each student. These have now been relaxed: pupils must remain 1 metre apart each side (but not necessarily in front or behind) and wear masks, but the whole class should be present.
Some parents have questioned why pupils need to return so near to the start of the two-month summer holidays, but the education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, has said “two weeks of classes is important” after pupils have been distance learning since March, with mixed success.
Some measures that were initially due to come into effect on Monday were brought forward because the Covid-19 figures were better than expected, but cinemas are set to reopen today and public gatherings of up to 5,000 people will be allowed. All Paris metro stations should also reopen.
There was some concern after videos from the annual Fête de la Musique on Sunday evening showed thousands of people gathered on the streets of Paris dancing, having fun and showing no sign of any social distancing.
Yesterday’s figures showed seven people died of Covid-19 in France in the previous 24 hours, the lowest figure since the pandemic began in March. Although the figures are likely to have been skewed by slow weekend reporting, the number of patients in hospital and intensive care with the virus is also low.
However, the overseas territory of French Guiana may have to go back into lockdown after a “sudden acceleration” of the epidemic.
The United Nations has said it is gravely concerned about deliberate attacks on healthcare personnel and facilities in Afghanistan, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UN mission in Afghanistan released a report on Sunday that documents the “harm to healthcare workers, damage to healthcare facilities and other ways in which parties to the conflict have interfered with necessary healthcare, both as a result of targeted attacks as well as from ongoing fighting”.
The report documents 15 incidents affecting healthcare provision, where 12 were deliberate attacks and the remaining incidents involved incidental harm. Most of these healthcare-related incidents – eight of the targeted attacks and two of the incidents with incidental harm – were attributed to the Taliban.
The Afghan national security forces were responsible for three targeted attacks against healthcare. One instance of incidental harm to healthcare occurred during clashes between Afghan national security forces and the Taliban. The most abhorrent attack, on a maternity ward in a Kabul hospital, remains unattributed, according to the report.
The report emphasises that deliberate acts of violence against healthcare facilities, including hospitals and related personnel, “are prohibited under international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes”.
Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, said:
At a time when an urgent humanitarian response was required to protect every life in Afghanistan, both the Taliban and Afghan national security forces carried out deliberate acts of violence that undermined healthcare operations. There is no excuse for such actions; the safety and wellbeing of the civilian population must be a priority.
The number of confirmed infections of Covid-19 in Afghanistan passed 29,000 on Monday after the country’s health ministry announced 310 new cases – the lowest daily rise since 9 May – taking the total number of infections to 29,143. The death toll has risen by 12 to 598.
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