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SCHOOLS

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

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?

Why are primary school students in Switzerland not required to wear masks?
No masks are required for younger students. Photo by AFP

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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TAXES

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. 

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