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

New research has shown that lunchtime is the most dangerous part of the day when it comes to coronavirus transmissions at work.

‘It’s dangerous when it gets cosy’: Switzerland warns of work lunch covid risk
Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

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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Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

Switzerland’s tax deadline is just around the corner. Are Covid-related costs tax deductible?

Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

March 31st is the deadline for filing taxes in Switzerland relating to the 2021 financial year. 

Over the past two years, the Covid pandemic has seen a change in our spending habits. 

While we may have saved on restaurants and travel, we laid out considerable costs on a range of new expenses, including disinfectant, masks and Covid tests. 

As some of these costs are required by law, can they be deducted from your tax?

In some cases, expenses directly related to the Covid pandemic can be deducted. 

Masks, for instance, can be deducted as medical expenses in some cantons, Swiss tax specialist Markus Stoll told 20 Minutes

This depends on the specific framework for tax deductions related to medical expenses in that canton. 

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Switzerland?

Generally speaking, any medical costs paid out of pocket can be deducted. However, most cantons impose a minimum percentage limit from which these costs can be deducted. 

In many cantons, this will start at five percent of your yearly income in total (i.e. including other out-of-pocket costs like dental or specialist visits), meaning you would need to purchase a significant amount of masks to beat the threshold. 

What about testing and vaccination?

Testing and vaccinations however were largely free as their costs were covered by the Swiss government, which means associated expenses cannot be deducted. 

Those tests which were not covered by the government – for instance for travel abroad or for visiting clubs – cannot be deducted, Stoll says. 

“Tests for travel abroad or to visit clubs are not deductible” Stoll said. 

For a complete overview of taxation in Switzerland, including several specific guides, please check out our tax-specific page here.