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Hundreds of pupils in quarantine after holidays

Pupils in a Zurich baccalaureate school wearing masks Keystone / Alexandra Wey

The school term has started in most cantons, but quarantine regulations mean that hundreds of pupils are at home, reports say. The Federation of Swiss Teachers says this is the case for an average 1-2 pupils per class. 

This content was published on August 21, 2020 - 14:41
SRF/Blick/Keystone-SDA/swissinfo.ch/RSI/ilj

People who enter Switzerland from "high-risk" countries, which include Spain and some nations in the Balkans, must undergo a ten-day quarantine or face a fine. This includes pupils who were due to start school. 

According to a survey by the tabloid Blick, there are 690 pupils across all school levels in quarantine after the holidays in canton Zurich (which started back on Monday). In cantons St Gallen and Basel City (which both started back on August 10), there are 100 and 70 pupils respectively in quarantine. 

The head of the Federation of Swiss Teachers said she was not surprised by the numbers. “If we are honest, we are happy that pupils are taking the protection measures seriously and staying at home, rather than coming to school and potentially infecting others,” Dagmar Rösler told Swiss pubic television SRF. 

She said that on average, from what she had heard, about 1-2 pupils per class are missing from school. Rösler said that most absentees were getting schoolwork to do at home rather than any distance learning.  

Rösler said it was important to react with extra measures should the number of coronavirus cases keep rising – on Friday the total number of new cases across Switzerland was officially more than 300. “I’ve had discussions about whether masks should be introduced in entire schools. We are not there yet. But I think we have to try to make the best of the situation and protect pupils and teachers as much as we can at the moment,” she said. 

Differing approaches 

Cantons – which are in charge of educational matters in Switzerland – have different approaches in place concerning how to deal with quarantine issues at schools, with many putting the emphasis on parental responsibility. 

In canton St Gallen, the authorities threatened to fine parents if children had to stay at home on quarantine at the beginning of term. According to Blick, however, no fines have yet been handed out.  

There have already been cases of whole classes going into quarantine in some cantons that have started back: such as in canton Bern (one kindergarten class and two primary school classes due to a teacher being infected) and in canton Solothurn (six classes in quarantine).  

Some cantons in the French-speaking part of the country, like Geneva, will start term next Monday. Canton Ticino, hard hit by coronavirus due to its proximity to Italy, will start back on August 31. The authorities there have not ruled out putting whole classes into quarantine should it be necessary (for example, later in autumn when there could be a resurgence of cases). 

Mask issue 

In some cantons face masks are obligatory for older pupils aged 15-16. In Bern, two pupils at a Baccalaureate school (which prepares for university) tested positive for corona, but their classmates were wearing masks, so did not have go into quarantine. 

There is currently no enforcement of face marks in primary schools due to the opinion in Switzerland that under 12s are less affected by the coronavirus. 

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