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Everything that changes in Switzerland in September 2020

What changes are taking place in Switzerland in September of 2020?

Everything that changes in Switzerland in September 2020
Photo by Pexels

Although there are few concrete changes set for September 2020, with a referendum scheduled, the month could be a consequential month for millions of residents. 

In addition, there are some other small changes to be considered from September onwards. 

September 27th referendum

Switzerland will go to the polls on September 27th to consider five separate initiatives. 

Of these, the two which have gained the most traction are the migration limitation initiative and the paternity leave initiative. 

The other three questions are on whether the army should be allowed to purchase new fighter jets, whether tax deductions should be increased for childcare and whether hunting should be restricted. 

Three of these – migration restriction, tax deduction and animal protection – were originally scheduled for May 17th but were postponed due to the pandemic. 

While the vote will be held on September 27th, the changes will not be made immediately – particularly if the migration initiative is successful as it will be subject to significant negotiation between the EU and the Swiss government. 

Click here for an overview of the referendum questions.

We have also prepared specific guides on the migration initiative and that on paternity leave. 

EXPLAINED: Switzerland's referendum to restrict EU migration

READ: Everything you need to know about Switzerland's paternity leave referendum 

Masks compulsory in Solothurn from September 3rd

Due to rising infection rates, the central Swiss canton of Solothurn has put in place a compulsory mask requirement. 

The central canton has become the ninth to put in place a compulsory mask requirement in shops. 

Authorities decided on August 28th that masks will be compulsory in shops from Thursday, September 3rd onwards. 

READ: Why did it take Switzerland so long to make masks compulsory?

As reported by the Solothurner Zeitung, authorities had been reluctant to put in place a mask requirement due to the canton’s location. 

Solothurn borders several other cantons, with authorities concerned the mask rule would encourage residents to go shopping across the border. 

In addition to Solothurn, eight other cantons have put in place compulsory mask requirements in shops: Zurich (from August 27th), Fribourg (August 28th), Valais (August 31st) and in Basel City, Geneva, Neuchâtel, Vaud and Jura.

Masks have been required on public transport in all Swiss cantons since July 6th.

Photo by Pexels

Masks compulsory at several institutions in Zurich

Masks will be compulsory in all buildings and interiors at the Zurich University for Applied Sciences (ZHAW) from September 1st

This includes publicly accessible areas, meeting rooms and classrooms. 



In addition to the ZHAW, the University of Zurich, Zurich Central Library, the ETH Zurich and the HSG are also introducing a mask requirement in their universities.

Mask flat rate for St Gallen residents on welfare

Welfare benefit recipients in the Swiss canton of St Gallen will only need to pay 30 francs for a year’s supply of coronavirus masks under a new plan.

The plan is designed to reduce the burden of purchasing masks on benefit recipients. 

Although masks are currently not required in shops and restaurants in St Gallen, they were made compulsory on July 6th across the country. 

Pursuant to the plan, supplementary benefit recipients will only pay 30 francs per year as a ‘flat rate’. 

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

While no concrete indication has been given as to how the masks should be provided, the St. Gallen Conference on Social Welfare recommends that municipalities reimburse the costs of the masks to each benefit recipient, or provide masks directly to those receiving social assistance. 

The flat rate comes into effect on September 1st, 2020. 

The government estimates that the plan will cost approximately 270,000 francs per year. 

Large events from October 1st

While the change will technically take place on Thursday, October 1st, event organisers and venues will have September to prepare their ‘protection concepts’ in order to allow events with more than 1,000 people to take place again. 

From concerts to sporting events in stadiums, the Swiss government has again allowed large events. 

And while sporting fixtures narrowly avoided an alcohol ban, things are likely to look pretty different than they did before the pandemic. 

READ: Here's how large events will look in Switzerland from October 2020 

Large events can again take place in Switzerland from October 1st. Image: AFP

Paying fines with a QR code in Lucerne 

From September 1st, 2020, fines issued by police in the canton of Lucerne can be paid via a QR code

This includes parking fines, along with financial penalties for driving too fast or throwing rubbish on the floor. 

Before September 1st, these were still handwritten by police or recorded on a decades-old device. 

The system in Lucerne mirrors that already in place in Zurich, St Gallen and Basel City. 

Zurich introduced QR codes for fines in May. Despite some teething problems, police say the move has saved them considerable amounts of time. 

What else could change? 

Perhaps the only thing that’s been consistent about the pandemic in Switzerland is change. 

The main change is likely to be rules surrounding masks and hygiene if infection rates continue to climb. 

At the start of August, only three cantons had compulsory mask requirements – a number that rose to nine by the end of the month

Stay tuned to The Local Switzerland for an update on everything that changes as it happens. 

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For members


Can I have a fire in my backyard or courtyard in Switzerland?

The winter months are on their way and the weather is getting colder. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, can you light a fire?

White marshmallows toast over a fire
If you want to toast marshmallows in your backyard in Switzerland this winter, first make sure it's OK. Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Even if you own a property, the rules for what you can and cannot do in Switzerland can be relatively restrictive. 

As we covered in the following article, laws or tenancy rules can prevent you from doing several types of activities in your own backyard, including felling trees or washing your car. 

You can also be prevented from certain activities on particular days. For instance, rules, bylaws and tenancy arrangements may prevent you from mowing your lawn or hanging out your laundry on a Sunday. 

READ MORE: What am I allowed to do in my backyard or apartment courtyard in Switzerland?

As the weather gets colder, you might be tempted to stock up the fire pit, fire basket or fire bowl with wood and set it alight. 

The rules for lighting fires are also relatively complex. What you are allowed to do will depend on your canton, your tenancy arrangement and the type of fire. 

Can I light a fire on my own property in Switzerland? 

If you’re living in one of the few Swiss houses to have a fireplace, then you are presumably allowed to use it, unless tenancy regulations prevent it at certain times. 

You are also usually allowed to have a barbecue or grill either on your balcony or in your backyard, provided the noise and smoke is not excessive. 

READ MORE: Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Switzerland?

Whether or not you are allowed to have a fire in your backyard however will depend on the rules in your canton. 

You are generally prohibited from burning any waste in Switzerland, other than typical forest or garden waste (i.e. wood, grass, twigs, sticks and leaves). 

That however can also be restricted at certain times of the year.

In Zurich, for instance, fires in backyards are only permitted from March to October, meaning that you will need to find other ways to stay warm in the winter months in Switzerland’s most populous canton. 

Even if lighting fires is permitted, you may want to check with the rules of your rental contract to see if you are technically allowed a fire. 

What about fires in the forest or open parks? 

A campfire might also sound like a nice way to spend a winter evening, but this may be restricted or completely prohibited depending on the circumstance. 

There is no federal ban on fires in forests and other outdoor areas, provided you are not burning waste (other than garden waste etc) and you are not producing excessive emissions. 

The rules are the same on August 1st, Swiss National Day, where special bonfires usually require a permit. 

Note that there are special rules for burning old Christmas trees, which is prevented by law.