The number of students positive for Covid-19 is “A controlled figure”, tried to temper Jean-Michel Blanquer, Friday, November 6, on RTL, in the face of concerns raised by the teaching staff. According to the Minister of National Education during the past week while he was speaking, “We are at 3,528 students who have tested positive”, that “Reported to 12 million students”. A figure that seems stable over time since the start of the school year, and which allows the minister to conclude that the health situation is hardly deteriorating in schools across the country.
What Mr. Blanquer does not say is that the method of collecting these figures has its limits, and does not really reflect the health situation in the classrooms, which, unsurprisingly, has deteriorated at the same time. than that of the rest of the country.
Ministry figures are based on declarative
Communicated every Friday by the Ministry of National Education, these weekly figures, which relate to the last seven days (from Thursday to Thursday), show the number of establishments and classes closed where the health situation required it, as well as the number of students and staff who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. But, medical secrecy requires, the review of the number of students with Covid-19 is mainly based on the parents’ desire to declare their child as a positive case.
“National education does not have the right to have student health information, which is essentially confidential”
The data communicated by the ministry is indeed fed back by the rectorates, which are informed by the establishments, which have two ways of knowing if a student is positive: either by the parents or by the regional health agencies. However, the first way depends greatly on the parents’ willingness to communicate information. Contacted by Release, the firm of Jean-Michel Blanquer explains: “We don’t have the means to verify them. The more so as the national education does not have the right to have information of health of pupils, by essence confidential, if it is not given by the parents (legal representatives), or a certificate of the doctor who l ‘would indicate, or the ARS. “
Consequently, the ministry’s data are very partial and give little account of the deterioration of the situation in schools which has been observed for several weeks. Between mid-September and mid-October, the numbers from the Sidep database of Public Health France (SPF, which lists the tests performed and their results) counted between 2.5 and 3 times more positive cases in the 0 -19 years that the ministry has not identified cases among the students.
But during the second week of the All Saints holidays, the difference became spectacular, since the ministry this time communicated a number thirteen times lower than that of SPF.
Rain of criticism on the opacity of numbers
The timing chosen by Jean-Michel Blanquer to highlight the stability of the number of cases identified by his administration at the very moment when the gap with the situation seemed to be widening has thus given rise to many criticisms. Since then, the numbers released Friday, November 13 have reported almost four times as many cases as the week before, with 12,487 cases. Such a difference from one week to the next can partly be explained by the delay between the date of the sample, the announcement of the result to the families and their communication to the establishments. But even with such time lags, the ministry’s numbers are still very far from those of SPF.
“We have 12 million students while the figures of Public Health France relate to 16 million young people”, specifies the ministry
The ministry defended itself by stressing that its data do not have the same scope as those of Public Health France: “We have 12 million students while the figures from Public Health France relate to 16 million young people”, he said to the Figaro. All 0-19 year olds tested positive and listed in the Sidep database are, in fact, not all enrolled in primary or secondary education. In France, in 2020, there are around 15.39 million people aged 19 or less, of which 12.35 million are under the responsibility of the Ministry of National Education. But the difference is mainly due to children not yet enrolled in kindergarten (around 2 million in 2020).
Added to the fact that PCR tests are not recommended for children under 6 years old (because they are more prone to viral infections and significantly less contagious), such an argument cannot explain the difference between the data. There then remains the “contribution” of students aged 18 to 19, which is difficult to estimate, but which may explain part of the gap.
Beyond this simple difference in numbers, the main problem concerns the method. Far from exposing the methodological weakness of their collection in order to better understand their scope, the Minister, as well as several rectors, preferred to use these figures to underline the control of the situation, even though they do not reflect the current dynamic. real epidemic, including among the youngest.
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