Covid: Several schools in Zurich return to distance learning

Several primary and secondary schools in the Swiss canton of Zurich have re-adopted distance learning due to significant increases in Covid numbers forcing teachers into isolation.

Covid: Several schools in Zurich return to distance learning
Schools in Zurich are back in distance education. (Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP)

Unlike previous orders for students to study from home, these have come about on an ad hoc basis, with too many teachers in isolation for replacements to be found. 

Switzerland’s Tages Anzeiger newspaper wrote on Wednesday “the state of emergency is back”. 

Impacted schools include the Friedrichsstrasse secondary school in Zurich-Schwamendingen and the Kügeliloo in Zurich-Oerlikon.

In several classes, parents were only notified the day before that they should take care of their children at home. 

Switzerland has seen a continued increase in case numbers since relaxing measures in mid-February, although hospitalisations and fatalities remain stable. 

The cases have spiked recently in Zurich, which experts believe is to do with bad weather forcing people inside in previous weeks. 

The peak of the infection wave is expected to be reached at the end of March, Swiss news outlet Blick reported on Wednesday. 

Switzerland is currently planning to phase out the remaining Covid measures at the end of March, provided the epidemiological situation was stable. 

Currently, masks must be worn on public transport and those who test positive must isolate for at least five days. 

READ MORE: Will Switzerland lift Covid restrictions amid rising infections?

The Federal Council has not yet indicated what the decision will be, even though three members — President Ignazio Cassis, Health Minister Alain Berset, and Minister of Economic Affairs Guy Parmelin — have all recently tested positive to coronavirus.

And Swiss media is reporting that an increasing number of MPs is also infected in the midst of the spring session of the parliament.

“The number of Covid cases literally exploded in the Federal Palace. In two years of the pandemic, never have so many MPs been confined at the same time”, reports Blick.


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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”