Quarantine ordered for 2,500 students at elite Swiss school

Quarantine ordered for 2,500 students at elite Swiss school

Thursday, September 24, 2020

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Swiss authorities ordered 2,500 students at an elite hospitality management school to quarantine themselves due to a coronavirus outbreak allegedly linked to off-campus partying, the latest back-to-school sign of higher education's place in the pandemic.

Authorities in Switzerland's Vaud canton, or region, said all undergraduates at the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, or the Lausanne Hospitality Management University in English, were told to quarantine at home both on and off campus because the virus already had spread too widely for a more limited order.

"Significant outbreaks of infection have appeared at several levels of training, making impossible a more targeted closure than that involving 2,500 students," the Vaud regional office said in a statement. "Until September 28, the students must stay home."

The statement said an early investigation indicated that "one or more parties was at the origin of these many outbreaks". The local authorities reiterated a call for party-goers to demonstrate a "responsible attitude" by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, tracing their contacts and watching for COVID-19 symptoms.

Ines Blal, the university's executive dean, said administrators had warned students against holding start-of-term parties, even off-campus and outside the school's authority — and said a "disciplinary investigation" was underway. She said the school had already been bracing for "worst-case scenarios" in recent months by putting courses online and rolling out distance-learning programmes.

University spokesman Sherif Mamdouh said 11 students had tested positive for the coronavirus in connection with the outbreak so far and none required hospitalisation. Mamdouh said only 67 of the undergraduates affected by the quarantine live on campus, while all the rest live off-campus.

The university, which has been heralded as one of the world's top schools in the field, has a total student body of about 3,500, including people pursuing advanced degrees.

Mamdouh said the quarantine runs only through Monday because Swiss authorities factored in a possible 14-day virus incubation period since this month's start-of-term parties.

He could not explain why faculty members or graduate students were not included in the quarantine order, but said it was a decision made by the cantonal authorities. They were not immediately available for comment.

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