After a much-publicised incident in a hotel in the eastern canton of Graubünden where only staff wearing plastic visors were infected, Swiss health officials told The Local that plastic visors are only a “complementary” form of protection in addition to face masks.
The officials did however stop short of making a federal recommendation that plastic visors were insufficient, saying it was up to the cantons to set the appropriate rules.
Daniel Dauwalder, spokesperson for the Federal Office of Public Health, told The Local that the government’s official position was that visors are “no substitute for face masks”.
“They protect the eyes from possible infection through droplets, but the possibility of infection via the nose or mouth cannot be excluded,” Dauwalder said.
“Visors only serve as a complementary form of protection measure in conjunction with a mask.”
As reported by The Local Switzerland in mid-July, health officials in the canton of Graubünden studying a recent outbreak among staff at a hotel found a worrying trend – all of those who were infected wore plastic face shields, while those who avoided infection wore face masks.
Several employees of the hotel tested positive along with a guest. Rudolf Leuthold, head of the cantonal health department in Graubünden, said the face shields were the common denominator in infections.
“It has been shown that only those employees who had plastic visors were infected. There was not a single infection among employees with a mask.”
Leuthold told Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes that a guest of the hotel was also infected: “We know that the guest was served by employees with plastic visors.”
‘The cantons remain responsible’
Dauwalder told The Local that cantonal officials were best placed to decide whether masks should be required in service rather than plastic visors.
“Cantons remain responsible for the implementation and control of adequate precautionary measures in businesses/institutions/events within their jurisdiction,” he said.
“That’s also why the canton of Graubünden has published the statement you covered in your story and other cantons have made masks obligatory for waiters/waitresses in the gastro business.”
The cantons of Geneva and Ticino, among some of the heaviest hit by the virus on a per capita basis, have put in place compulsory mask requirements for all bar and restaurant staff.