‘Normal life is coming back’: Churches in Switzerland to open earlier than expected

Swiss places of worship will be able to reopen from May 28, the government announced Wednesday, to allow weddings, baptisms and other religious celebrations to resume.

“Normal life is coming back,” Health Minister Alain Berset said after the government brought the move forward by a week.

“Mass, worship, marriages, baptisms” and other events in places of worship will all be allowed to resume, he told a press conference.

READ: Tourism despite coronavirus: Swiss can holiday in Germany, France and Austria this summer

In recent weeks, some religious services have been held behind closed doors and broadcast online or on television. In Neuchatel, mass was celebrated online and portraits of parishioners were placed in the pews.

Switzerland stopped short of imposing strict confinement in measures introduced in mid-March aimed at stopping the spread of the new coronavirus.

READ: Can I visit my second home in Switzerland?

It has been gradually lifting its restrictions since barbers, florists, family doctors and hardware stores were allowed to reopen on April 27.

The rates of infection, hospitalisation and death have flattened off in recent weeks, according to the health ministry.

Abbot Vincent Marville stands in the central aisle of the Basilica of Neuchatel.  Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Contact tracing 

“Faith communities should be able to resume their common religious life,” the government said in a statement. “From May 28, all services and celebrations of all faiths will once again be permitted.

“The religious communities have one week to work out protection concepts and to ensure the tracing of possible chains of infection.”

Those organising religious gatherings will have to make a list of all attendees, including their name and telephone number.

If requested, they would then have to pass it on to the  authorities, to identify and inform anyone deemed at risk of being infected.

The list can be disposed of after 14 days.

The disease has infected more than 30,000 people and killed more than 1,600 in Switzerland, which has a population of around 8.5 million.

Primary schools, shops, restaurants and museums have reopened, although physical distancing and hygiene measures remain in force.

Next week, the government is due to reconsider its ban on gatherings of more than five people.

Secondary schools and universities are set to return from June 8.

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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.