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Vaccination chief calls for end to school quarantine for children

Christoph Berger is the head of the Federal Vaccination Commission Keystone / Gaetan Bally

The head of the Federal Vaccination Commission has said that quarantine rules for children over Covid-19 “make little sense at the moment”.

This content was published on September 9, 2021 - 10:53
SRF/Keystone-SDA/SWI swissinfo.ch/ilj

In a television interview with Swiss public television SRF External linkon Wednesday evening, Christoph Berger said infections among children were usually mild and only dangerous if they infect other at-risk people. It is the parents’ responsibility to prevent these situations, he said.

His comments come as the number of infections in Swiss schools rise after the summer holidays. In Lenzburg in canton Aarau, for example, a whole primary school - 29 classes and around 600 pupils - are currently in quarantine.

Keeping schools open

Berger said that putting whole classes into quarantine is not necessary, neither are masks. He called instead for repeat mass testing of pupils to prevent large outbreaks. "With repetitive testing, there is no longer any need for quarantine in schools,” he told SRF.

This, regular airing of rooms and handwashing would allow parents to send their children to school without hesitation, Berger said. "The most important thing for the children is that they have a regular routine and can go to school,” he argued.

Debate has been raging in Switzerland about how best to control and prevent coronavirus outbreaks at schools. Currently the greatest number of positive tests are among the 0-9 and 10-19 age groups, statistics showExternal link.

Schools: difficult times

Schools are facing a difficult time at the moment, said Dagmar Rösler, president of the German-speaking Federation of Swiss Teachers, on Wednesday.

"As a teacher, you never know which students are coming to school or who needs to be quarantined and given assignments for home. It is a very difficult and complex situation in schools at the moment," Rösler told SRF in a separate interviewExternal link.

On Wednesday, teachers again called for more mass testing and CO2 measuring devices, which help check when more ventilation is needed.

Health measures in schools, like social distancing, handwashing, and ventilating have remained in place for the new term. However, as cantons are responsible for educational matters in Switzerland, they are also in charge of related Covid decisions, like masks for older pupils and mass testing. This has led to a patchwork of measures across the country, which has been criticised by some parents and experts.

On Thursday, St Gallen became the latest canton to reintroduce masks for secondary school pupils, from age 12 upwards, until two weeks after the autumn holidays in response to Covid outbreaks. Canon Vaud also announced that it would extend mask wearing for pupils from the 9th grade until October 1.

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