French teachers strike in protest at Covid-19 school protocols

Demonstrators gather in the city of Clermont-Ferrand on Thursday as French teacher and student unions call for a national strike in protest over the government's Covid-19 protocols for schools.

Paris (CNN)Changes to France's Covid-19 testing protocol for schools are causing "constant chaos" and "putting teachers' lives in danger," a spokesperson from one of the country's teaching unions said Thursday, as thousands of teachers nationwide went on strike.

The French Ministry of Education told CNN that about 31% of all schoolteachers were on strike Thursday, with 38% in primary schools taking action and nearly 24% in secondary schools.
The figures were significantly lower than those given by a French teachers' union earlier in the day.
    "This is the ministry downplaying once again the magnitude of the strike," a spokesperson for the Combined National Union of Primary School Teachers, Guislene David, said when asked about the discrepancy.
      In Paris, 58% of teachers were on strike​, and nearly 200 schools were closed​ Thursday, according to the mayor's office.
      A protest organized by teachers' unions began around lunchtime in Paris. However, small groups of teachers were already seen taking to the streets by the capital's Arc de Triomphe, as well as in other cities, Thursday morning.
      A French trade unionist speaking on radio station France Info​ said the strike was "not against the virus," but rather "a strike against the lack of consultation."
        French Prime Minister Jean Castex and Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer will meet Thursday afternoon with representatives of all the teachers on strike, a spokesperson for the joint teachers' union told CNN.
        An education ministry spokesperson confirmed to CNN that Castex and Blanquer would be attending the meeting.
        According to CNN's French affiliate BFMTV, Health Minister Olivier Veran, who announced Thursday he had tested positive for Covid-19 and is isolating, will join them by videoconference.
        On Tuesday, France recorded its highest number of Covid-19 daily infections since the pandemic began, with a total of 368,149 new cases, according to data released by the French government. A further 361,719 new cases were recorded Wednesday.
        French teachers take part in a demonstration in Nice on Thursday over the government's Covid-19 protocols for schools.

        Teachers 'fed up'

        Union leaders say their members are frustrated by constantly changing guidelines on how to handle the pandemic.
        On January 2, the eve of the new school semester, Blanquer outlined new Covid-19 rules for schools in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper.
        These rules stated that if a positive Covid-19 case was detected in a class, all other students would have to take three Covid-19 tests in four days to stay in school. They must first take a PCR or antigen test, with two self-administered tests