‘It’s dangerous when it gets cosy’: Switzerland warns of work lunch covid risk

‘It’s dangerous when it gets cosy’: Switzerland warns of work lunch covid risk
Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels
New research has shown that lunchtime is the most dangerous part of the day when it comes to coronavirus transmissions at work.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Swiss authorities warned that lunchtime situations carried a heavy coronavirus transmission risk. 

“We have been used to being closer together in certain situations since childhood, and we find it pleasant and cozy,” says Thomas Steffen, Cantonal Doctor in Basel City.

“But it always becomes dangerous when it gets cozy.

“We're looking for closeness – and that's where the dam breaks.”

MAPS: Where are Switzerland's emerging coronavirus hotspots? 

Steffen said people were much more likely to let their guard down while having lunch, particularly after complying with strict hygiene rules for hours while working. 

He said that rather than banning work lunches and requiring people to eat alone, employers should look for ways to minimise infections – including changing table settings so to encourage distancing while also allowing for communication and eye contact.

“Eating together also has an important social meaning,” says Steffen. “Nobody has to go without eating together with sufficient distance.”

Avoid quarantine by wearing a mask? 

In Zurich, authorities have said that wearing a mask in the office will allow you to avoid a quarantine requirement. 

Zurich health director Natalie Rickli, in discussing workplace transmission, said “a mask also protects against quarantine”. 

Swiss news outlet Watson reports that contact tracers in Zurich will not order quarantine for people who have always worn a mask while at work – provided the potential infection came through the workplace. 

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

Zurich health spokeswoman told Watson: “if everyone involved has always worn masks, the contact tracers refrain from issuing a quarantine order, even if the distance is not kept.”

Doctor Dieter Kissling told Watson that masks provide better protection in the office than social distancing. 

“You can only protect yourself safely from infection in the office if you always wear a mask.”

“Aerosols spread over a larger area than 1.5 meters. And now we know that they can play a role in the spread of Sars-CoV-2.”


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