Swiss parliament to debate compulsory mask requirement on Friday

Swiss parliament to debate compulsory mask requirement on Friday
A transit worker hands out free masks in Lausanne. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Switzerland is set to debate the introduction of a mask requirement, months after similar rules were imposed in neighbouring countries.

Switzerland’s Federal Council is set to debate whether the country will join its neighbours in adopting a compulsory mask requirement. 

Unlike its neighbours, Switzerland has not put in place a compulsory mask requirement. 

At this stage no information has been given about the requirement, however neighbouring countries have required masks in public transport, shops and some workplaces. 

Daniel Dauwalder, a spokesperson for the Federal Office of Public Health, said that compulsory masks will be discussed by the Federal Council on June 19th

Swiss authorities have been reluctant to put in place mask requirements for a number of reasons, the main one being a lack of available masks. 

A study from June 18th showed only six percent of transit passengers wore masks in Swiss cities. 

Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Switzerland was completely reliant on its neighbours for manufacturing masks – with none being made locally. 

Switzerland has been reluctant to put in place a mask requirement, noting that available masks should be kept for healthcare workers

During the height of the pandemic, neighbouring countries like Germany and France blocked shipments of masks and other protective equipment to Switzerland, saying they were needed at home

While machines, which can be used to make masks, were imported into Switzerland in April and production began in May, Swiss politicians have said the country should learn the lessons of the coronavirus and begin manufacturing their own personal protective equipment. 

READ: Swiss researchers develop breathable, transparent face masks 

Masks in shops and public transport? 

One option considered by the Swiss government is to more strongly advocate that commuters and shoppers in Switzerland wear masks. 

As a result of the lack of a requirement, the Association of Public Transport estimates that only one in 10 Swiss commuters wears a mask on public transport. 

Stefan Kuster, who recently took over from Daniel Koch as the chief of the Swiss Communicable Diseases Department, is a more staunch advocate of mask usage in public transport than Koch. 

In an interview on Monday, Kuster said “you need masks” when referring to people using public transport. 

Germany introduced mask requirements in all of its 16 states in late April in public transport and shops. Some states also made it a requirement in other public spaces. As of mid-June, the requirement is set to remain valid for the foreseeable future. 

Italy also put in place a mask requirement in April. In France, a mask requirement came into place in early May.


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