Why are primary school students in Switzerland not required to wear masks?

Why are primary school students in Switzerland not required to wear masks?
No masks are required for younger students. Photo by AFP
Schoolchildren in most of Switzerland have returned to school, and two more cantons will resume classes soon. But even though the number of coronavirus infections is surging, students in primary schools are not required to wear masks. Why?

Masks are not compulsory for younger students because, according to Swiss health authorities, children under 12 are not prone to being affected by Covid-19.

Unlike older adults with pre-existing medical conditions, “there are no groups vulnerable to the coronavirus infection among children”, The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) wrote on its website.

Covid-19 “is extremely rare in children and young people”, FOPH noted.

“So far, everything indicates that children are not transmitting the disease. Unlike the flu or other respiratory illnesses where children play a major role in the epidemic, with coronavirus it is different”, Daniel Koch, the former head of the FOPH’s infectious diseases unit, said in an interview with RTS television in May.

READ MORE: Masks or no masks? How some Swiss schools are re-opening this week

He added that based on all “serious and observational studies” children rarely get this disease”.

This stance has not been modified to this day.

However, two Swiss studies cast doubt on this claim. 

Research by the National COVID-19 Science Task Force found that the role of children in the transmission of this disease “remains highly uncertain”.

“We cannot currently draw firm conclusions about whether or not children can transmit the virus”, the report stated.

Another study, conducted by the Center for Emerging Viral Diseases, which is part of the Geneva University Hospital (HUG) and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Geneva, concluded that “it would be naive not to consider children as transmitters”.

To date, 351 children under the age of nine have been tested positive for the coronavirus in Switzerland, FOPH figures show. 

But the real number may be higher, as not everyone has symptoms that warrant testing. 

An infant from the canton of Aargau died from the disease at the end of May.

He was infected with Covid-19 while in Macedonia and air-lifted to the Children's Hospital in Zurich for treatment. 

So should children in primary schools wear masks to contain infection?

According to World Health Organization (WHO), “children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks”. 

This means no masks for kindergarten classes.

For children 6 to 11, the decision should be based on several factors, including “whether there is widespread transmission in the area where the child resides”.

But “children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area”.

However, WHO advises parents and schools to “abide by local authorities on recommended practices in their area”.

 


 


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