Aargau is the first Swiss canton to offer mobile vaccination centres for older pupils on school grounds.This content was published on August 19, 2021 - 17:20
The aim is to boost the vaccination rate among 16- to 19-year-olds in the canton, which currently stands at 43%, as well as to stem the number of coronavirus outbreaks in schools.
More than 200 pupils tested positive for the virus in the first week of term, cantonal health officials said on Wednesday. Schools in the northern canton were the first to go back after the summer holidays on August 9.
Currently the over 12s are eligible for the coronavirus vaccination with Pfizer and now ModernaExternal link in Switzerland. Aargau plans to extend its voluntary school vaccination service to those aged 12-15 in September (with parental permission).
Since the end of June the number of new reported coronavirus infections has been rising in Switzerland. The growth is largely due to the highly infectious Delta variant affecting unvaccinated people, mainly in the 10-29 age group.
On Thursday 2,788 new cases and 65 new hospitalisations were recorded.
Just over half of the Swiss population is now fully vaccinated with two doses, but experts and the government have been warning that the rate is stagnating.
What measures at schools?
As in other countries, debate has been raging about what other measures schools should be taking. Around two-thirds of cantons went back to school this week and Aargau is among the few cantons carrying on regular mass coronavirus testing in schools.
While health measures like social distancing, handwashing and ventilating remain in place for the new term across the country, other measures, like masks and mass testing, are up to the cantons. This is because in Switzerland cantons are in charge of educational matters – and related Covid decisions. Decisions can also be made at the lower, communal level.
The requirement for older pupils to wear masks – imposed by the government in this case as part of pandemic measures – was lifted before the summer holidays. A few cantons will continue with mask wearing nonetheless, albeit mostly for a short period at the beginning of the autumn term (except Neuchâtel).
Teachers have already called for mass testing to continue in schools (and it has been recommended by the government).
Calls for more protection
There have also been calls among parents and experts for more protection measures. The #ProtectTheKids parent initiative has, for example, launched a petitionExternal link aimed at cantonal education directors, calling for “effective measures like CO2 sensors, air filters, obligatory mask wearing, and mass testing with uniform quarantine rules” for schools. By mid-Thursday afternoon it had 979 signatures.
Geneva virologist Isabella Eckerle said on TwitterExternal link earlier this month that measures in other areas of life would have to continue to keep infections down and protect the unvaccinated. A government decision on current protection measures in Switzerland is expected early September.
Meanwhile, the new head of the Swiss Covid-19 science taskforce, Tanja Stadler, has also indicated the body’s supportExternal link for certain measures like sensors, filters, mass testing and masks for older pupils in schools.
“Our approach is to immediately implement everything that is not invasive, because that is the only way to keep schools open with as little virus circulating as possible,” she said in a recent interview published on SWI swissinfo.ch.