Swiss region rewards COVID-testing schools by lifting mask rule
By John Miller
ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland joins nations offering privileges to those who adhere to COVID-19 measures, as fifth and sixth grade students in one region can take off masks after their schools have taken mass tests.
This small step by the mountain canton of Graubünden on the Italian border from April 12th is a symbol of a broader global debate about whether people who test negative or are vaccinated should enjoy more freedom.
In order to fly, people must already have a negative test, while airlines want vaccinated people to travel without restrictions.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson kicked off the debate by suggesting bars could restrict customers to those who can produce so-called "pub passports" as proof of vaccination.
Graubünden introduced its mask regulation for fifth and sixth graders in schools in February, not long after employees of luxury hotels in St. Moritz tested positive for virus variants.
The canton has since pushed ahead with mass testing, including in schools, and said students are now allowed to take off masks in 95 percent of participating institutions that have participated.
"The decision is based on the positive influence of the cantonal test strategy," said Graubünden in a statement.
"With the weekly tests in schools, we had access to a tool that can quickly identify COVID-19 cases and break the chain of infection."
Other regions in Switzerland, including Zurich, where schools typically don't do mass testing, still need masks for fourth grade and above.
Graubünden will continue to need masks for teachers and students from the seventh grade onwards.
(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)
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