Teachers: urgent corona coordination needed for schools

Some cantons have already reimposed masks Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

Switzerland’s two main teaching associations have called for urgent, coordinated measures in schools as the country grapples with a major outbreak of the virus among pupils.

This content was published on December 14, 2021 - 16:39

“Shortly before the Christmas holidays and due to the extremely high daily infection numbers among children and young people – as well as the threat due to variants like Omicron – we are calling for effective measures that will drastically reduce the number of cases in the new year,” a joint statementExternal link from the German-speaking Federation of Swiss Teachers (LCH) and its French-speaking counterpart (SER) said on Tuesday.

Only this way can schools stay open and remain safe places of work and learning, the statement continued.

The associations are calling on the government and cantons - which are in charge of educational matters each have their own anti-corona school measures - to impose uniform rules across the country for repetitive mass saliva testing in schools and mask wearing “when epidemiologically pertinent”. Also key, they say, is coordination on the use of CO2 sensors, air filters and airing in classrooms.

The country is currently undergoing a fifth wave of the coronavirus with the number of daily infections recorded at over 8,000 on Tuesday. Infection rates are currently highestExternal link among the 10-19 age group in Switzerland, followed by 0-9-year-olds.

Omicron has already made its way into the country: earlier this week a class in Geneva was put into quarantine over a possible case of the new variant.

‘Swiss way’

Switzerland, unlike its neighbours Germany and Italy, has largely kept its schools open during the coronavirus pandemic, except for a short shutdown in spring 2020. Measures like distancing, handwashing and ventilation have been in place, but primary pupils have mostly not been required to wear masks.

In reaction to the virus situation, some cantons have stepped up their school measures over the past weeks, with mask requirements, starting the Christmas holidays early or pushing back the return to school after the holidays.

But the government has so far shied away from imposing national rules. Its original plan to make mass testing at schools compulsory in its December 3 pandemic measures was shelved following opposition from some cantons.

In its next batch of Covid measures, to be announced and confirmed this Friday, the government has targeted mask-wearing. This would be compulsory for upper secondary schools (age 16 plus) but only recommended for primary and lower secondary school.

More action needed

The teachers’ associations said the rise in quarantine among pupils and teachers over the past last weeks had “strongly shaken the school system” with unforeseen absences bringing schools to their limits.

They said that although cantons were in charge of education and schools, the “health of our children and young people was a national issue and must therefore be managed in this way”.

“If there are national measures for restaurants, shops, museums and other closed rooms, this also has to apply to school buildings,” the statement said.

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