Why are some parents in Switzerland ‘outraged’ about mask requirement in schools?

Masks are obligatory in secondary and vocational schools in the Swiss cantons of Lucerne and Schaffhausen. However, some parents oppose this rule.

Why are some parents in Switzerland ‘outraged’ about mask requirement in schools?
Masks are compulsory, even if parents don't agree. Photo by AFP

Classes in Lucerne are resuming on Monday, and masks are compulsory.

But according to media reports, a group of 60 parents wrote a letter to the canton’s education authorities, expressing their “outrage” over the mask rule.

They claim that face masks are a burden for the students because “they are actually intended and designed for professional use in the healthcare sector”.

“In contrast to students, the medical staff use the masks depending on the situation and are trained in their correct use”, the parents wrote.

Lucerne's education director Marcel Schwerzmann replied that schools want to ensure “as much face-to-face teaching and normality as possible”, and use of masks enables this process.

He also denied the parents’ contention that masks are “an attack on human dignity”.

Aldo Magno, the head of Lucerne’s cantonal department for high school education, said that pupils who can't wear masks can petition the school administration.

“If there is a medical reason, the permission would be granted, but simply the assertion that the mask requirement is a violation of human rights” would not be taken into consideration, he said.

“However, I don't think that many students will oppose the way these parents do”, Magno added.

READ MORE: These Swiss cantons have made masks compulsory in schools

'Children not breathing enough fresh air'

The mask requirement has been met with resistance in other regions as well. 

Christian Amsler, the education director for the canton of Schaffhausen said some parents are concerned “that their child could not breathe enough fresh air”.

Other parents argue that masks are problematic from a purely visual point of view.

“If everyone is suddenly walking around in masks, it conveys a sense of gloom and doom,” they said.

According to Amsler, the schools responded to each parent with a form letter, saying that the masks ensure classes would not have to be shut down if positive cases occur.

“The worst thing for school operations would be another lockdown with a return to distance learning over a long period of time,” he noted.

Schools have re-opened in 22 cantons between August 10th and August 17th.

Masks are compulsory in secondary and vocational schools in Bern, Jura, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Schaffhausen, and Zürich.

In the other five cantons masks must be worn if a distance of 1.5 metres between students and teachers can't be maintained.

Geneva and Vaud schools will start on August 24th, followed by Fribourg on the 27th and Ticino on the 31st.

All four cantons will have the mask requirement in place. 

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Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

Switzerland’s tax deadline is just around the corner. Are Covid-related costs tax deductible?

Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

March 31st is the deadline for filing taxes in Switzerland relating to the 2021 financial year. 

Over the past two years, the Covid pandemic has seen a change in our spending habits. 

While we may have saved on restaurants and travel, we laid out considerable costs on a range of new expenses, including disinfectant, masks and Covid tests. 

As some of these costs are required by law, can they be deducted from your tax?

In some cases, expenses directly related to the Covid pandemic can be deducted. 

Masks, for instance, can be deducted as medical expenses in some cantons, Swiss tax specialist Markus Stoll told 20 Minutes

This depends on the specific framework for tax deductions related to medical expenses in that canton. 

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Switzerland?

Generally speaking, any medical costs paid out of pocket can be deducted. However, most cantons impose a minimum percentage limit from which these costs can be deducted. 

In many cantons, this will start at five percent of your yearly income in total (i.e. including other out-of-pocket costs like dental or specialist visits), meaning you would need to purchase a significant amount of masks to beat the threshold. 

What about testing and vaccination?

Testing and vaccinations however were largely free as their costs were covered by the Swiss government, which means associated expenses cannot be deducted. 

Those tests which were not covered by the government – for instance for travel abroad or for visiting clubs – cannot be deducted, Stoll says. 

“Tests for travel abroad or to visit clubs are not deductible” Stoll said. 

For a complete overview of taxation in Switzerland, including several specific guides, please check out our tax-specific page here.