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What you need to know about Switzerland’s school closures

What you need to know about Switzerland’s school closures
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Switzerland on Friday announced the closure of all schools until April 4th. Here’s what you need to know.

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Switzerland’s Federal Council on Monday, March 13th, announced that all schools will be closed for three weeks until April 4th. 

In addition to the school closure announcement, the government said it would make CHF10 billion available for businesses hit by the epidemic. 

Swiss army prepares to deploy to assist coronavirus fight 

The number of confirmed cases in Switzerland rose above 1,100 on Saturday, with the unconfirmed number expected to be much higher. There have been 11 deaths from the virus across Switzerland. 

What will be closed and for how long? 

All schools, universities and vocational training facilities in Switzerland will be closed from March 16th until April 4th. 

The cantons of Fribourg, Neuchatel, Valais and Vaud extended the ban to the 30th of April. 

The ban does not apply to nurseries – with individual cantons responsible for making a decision. 

Exams that have already been planned and scheduled for the next three weeks can in some limited circumstances be carried out. The government indicated that if so, certain protective measures must be taken – however the specific measures weren’t identified in the official government communication. 

Why are schools closing now? Can my kids be cared for by their grandparents?

Despite the virus existing in Switzerland for several weeks, the decision was only now made by the government. 

The major reason for this is that authorities now better understand the role played by schools in transmitting the virus. 

Previously the government was reluctant as they wanted to avoid a situation where children were being cared for by their grandparents. 

Although closing schools now increases the risk of this, the government has expressly told parents to avoid this. 

Interior Minister Alain Berset said “we have to do everything we can to prevent generations from mixing”. 

What will my kids do now? 

The Federal Council said each canton was responsible for setting up childcare options, however there was no obligation for them to do this. 

Some cantons have already started to do this. In Aargau and Lucerne this has already been rolled out, while in Thurgau and Bern steps are being taken to do this. 

There is a lower likelihood of the virus spreading in childcare facilities due to the lower number. 

Will lessons take place? 

While schools have been closed, it does not mean that the learning will stop – at least not in every case. 

The prohibition is on face-to-face contact. Seem schools have planned internet lessons to take place during the shutdown. 

Dagmar Rösler, the president of the Swiss Teachers Association, told Swiss newspaper Watson that schools were prepared to do this – particularly for classes of kids in upper grades. 

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