Several commentators in France have speculated that the announcement by President Macron on Monday that schools will reopen gradually from May 11 may have been influenced by his long conversation with the controversial micro-biologist Didier Raoult. The French leader spent three and a half hours with Professor Raoult at his clinic in Marseille last Thursday.

A strong advocate of the use of hydroxychloroquine, the malarial drug that can cause liver and heart damage, Professor Raoult has put forward the view that children are less likely to act as vectors for the virus than adults. In a tweet on March 28, the Professor said: “children make up a small share of SARS-COV-2 diagnoses and have no higher viral load than adults.” Although that falls far short of claiming that children do not pass on the disease, the Professor’s conclusion is clear: “Children may not contribute significantly to the circulation of the virus.”

Certainly a factor in the decision to reopen schools in France is the fact that a return to school will enable many parents to go back to work and help restart an economy severely battered by the outbreak, and the financial and social costs it entails.

Meanwhile, as medical circles continue to debate the effectiveness of Professor Raoult’s hydroxychloroquine, the Presidential Palace has strongly denied a link between the conversation in Marseille and the President’s decision to reopen schools less than four weeks from now.

It should be noted that hydroxychloroquine – despite the fact that many in the medical fraternity doubt its effectiveness and warn of its side-effects – has been used with positive outcomes in Nice and also at the Princess Grace Hospital in a number of cases where the condition of coronavirus patients has given cause for alarm.

PHOTO: Professor Dider Raoult