Q&A: What impact will Switzerland’s mask rule for public transport have?

Q&A: What impact will Switzerland's mask rule for public transport have?
Masks will be obligatory on Switzerland's public transport. Photo by AFP
Starting on Monday July 6th, masks will become obligatory on all trains, buses, boats, and ski lifts in Switzerland. What does it mean in terms of price and availability?

Three months ago, when the Covid-19 pandemic first struck, face masks became scarce throughout the country.

However, the Federal Council never mandated the wearing of masks in public, so the shortage did not last.

But what will the situation be like starting on Monday? The Local answers the questions.

Q: What is the reason for this rule?

It is due to the spike in the number in coronavirus infections since mid-June. 

Even though Switzerland has not issued anything more than a recommendation to wear masks during the Covid-19 pandemic, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset explained at a press conference this week that “because of the increasing number of cases, we have decided to introduce the national mask requirement to prevent a second wave in Switzerland”.

New regulation requires everyone aged 12 or over to wear a mask.

Children up to 12 are exempt from the mask requirement. 

Railway police and security services will patrol public transport to ensure compliance with the requirement. 

Q: What kind of masks are required? 

The main goal of the regulation is to have the nose and the mouth covered.

This includes medical standard hygiene masks or surgical masks, but it also includes textile or cloth masks.

The recommendation allows those which are home made, however using a store-bought mask specifically made for preventing transmission of the virus is recommended. 

Scarves or other cloth coverings will not satisfy the mask requirement. Health authorities say such masks only provide limited protection against infection and therefore do not count as masks. 

Q: Will the masks become more expensive?

A: It is logical to assume that as the demand grows, so will the prices.

The price of the mask depends on several factors: demand, stock, production capacity, and transport. At the height of the pandemic, Switzerland did not have enough stock, so it had to buy masks at a high price and have them brought by plane, which costs more than the boat.

“It is possible that prices may increase a little, but the opposite could also happen”, Stefan Meierhans, the government’s ‘price watcher’ told television station RTS .

He added that his office would monitor the prices “and, if necessary, we will see whether we should and can act.”

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Switzerland's new compulsory mask requirement

However, Eric Bussat, the director of an online outlet PharmaciePlus, told RTS that there is no longer a scarcity of masks in Switzerland, so prices should not soar.

“On the other hand, there is also strong world demand. Therefore, prices should not drop drastically either”, he pointed out.


Q: How much do masks cost right now in Switzerland?

A: The prices vary slightly, but they are all in the same range, give or take a few francs.

For instance, Coop has a special deal online right now, where a box of 50 masks is 27.90 francs. 

At Aldi, the same box of 50 masks will cost 29.90 francs this coming weekend.

On PharmaciePlus, a box of 50 masks costs 36.90 francs. 

At Migros, we did not see a box of 50 masks online, but a package of 20 masks costs 19.70, which means it is more expensive per unit than 50-mask packs.

While we don’t know whether these prices will be maintained when the demand increases as of July 6th, the Romand Consumer Federation says a mask should not cost more than 1 franc a piece, and ideally not more than 60 cents.

Q: Could there be a shortage of masks in Switzerland?

A: Anything is possible and this situation would depend on how long the requirement to wear masks on public transportation will be in effect, and also whether this obligation will be extended to other public areas.

Another factor to consider is whether the spread of coronavirus will be kept under control or whether the number of infections will increase, as it has in the past two weeks.

If the latter occurs, then cantons could make the masks obligatory in public areas, and the demand may soar.

But at the moment, there is no shortage of masks.

In fact, Swiss authorities and the military ordered around 250 million units between the end of March and the beginning of June.

Another 90 million masks are on their way to Switzerland from China, and 20 million units are stored in various warehouses throughout the country.

 


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