Calls for French minister to resign after announcing Covid protocol from Ibiza

France’s education minister is facing calls to resign after it emerged he had announced a strict Covid-testing protocol for schools shortly before the start of the January school term while he was on holiday in Ibiza.

As French teachers and parents struggled to prepare children’s return to school amid France’s fifth wave of Covid, Jean-Michel Blanquer had flown to the Spanish island known for its beautiful beaches and party culture for a four-day holiday over the new year, the investigative website Mediapart segnalato.

The revelation that Blanquer was on holiday in Ibiza at one of the toughest moments for schools and parents has created a public relations disaster for the government.

Blanquer was once seen as a close ally of the president, [object Window], but he has come increasing criticism this month over the many changes to Covid protocols as schools struggled to put in place last-minute testing rules, manage class-closures and find replacements for absent teachers.

Teachersand parents’ unions have called for a second nationwide strike on Thursday after tens of thousands of teachers took part in a one-day strike la settimana scorsa.

The strict testing and isolation rules were unveiled by Blanquer in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper on 2 gennaio, hours before classes were to resume after the holiday break.

Mediapart revealed that the interview had taken place by video from Blanquer’s holiday in Ibiza, from which he flew back on the afternoon of Sunday 2 January in time for the start of the new term the next day. Le Parisien said its journalists had not known the minister’s location.

Blanquer was not breaking any laws – there were no Covid restrictions stopping travel to Spain and ministers had been asked to remain in Europa, two hours from Paris. But it has presented the government with an image problem as political campaigning is under way for the spring presidential election.

“There is a real gap between what Ibiza represents and what school staff were going through at that moment just before the start of the school term,” said Guislaine David, of the SNUipp-FSU teachers union. She said it would deepen the “already big divide” between the education ministry and teaching staff.

Yannick Jadot, a presidential candidate for the Green party EELV, said that instead of preparing the new school term alongside teachers and parents, Blanquer had had his “feet in the sand”. Jadot called for his resignation, detto: “This degree of contempt and irresponsibility is unacceptable.”

Olivier Faure, the Socialist party leader, said it felt like France had returned to the “bling bling” of holidays during the rightwing presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy years, and “at a moment when we were asking everyone to tighten their belts”.

Government ministers said Blanquer had been working constantly over the new year period and was in permanent contact with his team. He had flown to Ibiza after taking part in the government’s emergency Covid meeting on 27 dicembre.

Gabriel Attal, the government spokesman, disse: “The rule on holidays set by the government is that you must be constantly reachable, working on your brief, and I have no reason to think that was not the case for Jean-Michel Blanquer.”

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