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Pressure to wear masks at schools mounts

Around 100 upper secondary school teachers have written to the authorities in the western Swiss canton of Vaud calling for masks to be worn at school next term. This comes after canton Lucerne said it would make mask-wearing compulsory for certain schools. 

Earlier this week, Lucerne became the first Swiss canton to announce that older pupils and staff would likely wear hygiene masks at school after the summer holidays to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. The decision would affect Baccalaureate schools and vocational schools. 

Canton Jura is reportedly also considering the move, as are a number of other cantons. The Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, which was hard hit by the coronavirus and borders Italy, said this week that it planned to make masks compulsory for all schoolteachers in the corridors and the staff room, but not in class. Pupils would not have to wear the face coverings. 

In Switzerland cantons are in charge of educational matters and can decide which measures to take for the beginning of the autumn term.  

On March 13, the Swiss government took the unprecedented move of ordering the nationwide closure of all schools. Whereas primary schools mostly went back to full class teaching after reopening on May 11, this was not the case for most pupils in post-compulsory schooling like vocational and baccalaureate schools, who are aged over 15-16 (and who were only allowed back to school in small numbers from June 8, leading many of these schools to continue with distance learning until the summer holidays.) 


 “The inspiration for the letter came to us after several weeks of teaching half a class at a time. We saw that it took twice as long to make progress with our pupils… We are afraid that when [autumn] term starts, the same thing will happen again,” Laurent Carraz, who teaches at the Bugnon Baccalaureate school in Lausanne, told Swiss public television RTS

The letter calling for a mask recommendation was sent to Vaud education minister Cesla Amarelle, who replied on the same day that she favoured upper secondary schools going back to full-class teaching and that wearing masks was one of the options being considered, RTS reported. Vaud has yet to make a decision on the issue. 

Other cantons have also yet to pronounce on the measures they will take next term. 

The University of Fribourg also plans to impose a compulsory face mask rule from the start of the autumn semester, SRF has reported.