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HEALTH

What is Switzerland’s official three-phase plan to rollback coronavirus lockdown?

First hairdressers, then schools and finally bars - this is how Switzerland’s health minister Alain Berset is hoping to end the country’s coronavirus lockdown. However he will need approval of the Federal Council in a meeting on Thursday.

What is Switzerland’s official three-phase plan to rollback coronavirus lockdown?
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Note: This article was written on April 15th according to a leaked memo from Switzerland's health ministry. An updated summary of the official measures undertaken by the government as announced on Thursday, April 16th, is available here

Switzerland’s Federal Council will meet on Thursday to discuss the country’s coronavirus lockdown exit plan. 

A three-phase return to normality

As the individual most responsible for determining how Switzerland should transition out of the coronavirus lockdown, Berset has told the Swiss public for weeks that infection rates would be the major factor in deciding which measures to relax and at what point they should be relaxed. 

According to the Tages Anzeiger, his exit strategy involves three phases to be undertaken in relaxing the country’s restrictions. 

The newspaper reports that the plan is likely to win favour among many, particularly those with close ties to the country's business sector. 

Phase one: April 27th

The first phase will take place on April 27th, with hairdressers, physiotherapy practices, hardware stores and nurseries set to reopen. Book shops and flower shops are also said to be on the list. 

Those doing so will be required to adhere to a set of protective measures similar to those in place currently in supermarkets in Switzerland. 

Coronavirus: How Swiss supermarkets are using sensors to ensure social distancing

Gyms and other fitness clubs are not included in this first round. 

As reported by The Local Switzerland on Wednesday, gyms were implementing a range of changes in order to be allowed to reopen on April 27th. 

Coronavirus: How Switzerland's gyms plan to reopen on April 27th

Le Temps reported on Wednesday that other retail stores may be included in this first wave, although this has as yet not been confirmed. 

Le Temps also reported that the April 27th reopenings may include a requirement that masks are worn in all newly opened stores, as well as potentially in workplaces and on public transport. 

Health Minister Alain Berset cleaning his hands. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Phase two: May 11th

The second phase, set to take place on May 11th, will involve the reopening of schools and universities. 

This is expected to be accompanied by similar rules on social distancing and may include requirements to wear masks and other protective equipment. 

Phase three: June 8th

The third – and as yet final – phase of the exit strategy includes the reopening of bars and restaurants. This would take place on June 8th and would likely include some form of social distancing requirement. 

Nightclubs would also be allowed to open, although this is also expected to be subject to certain restrictions. 

This phase does not include major events such as sports matches with large crowds or concerts and music festivals.

These events have been left out of the plan completely, with suggestions that it will not be until a vaccine can be found before these are fully opened up. 

 

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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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