Three more Swiss cantons tighten coronavirus rules as infections increase

Faced with a significant increase of Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations, the Swiss cantons of Jura, Fribourg and Neuchâtel are implementing new restrictions starting on October 23rd.

Three more Swiss cantons tighten coronavirus rules as infections increase
Masks are now mandated in all public spaces in Switzerland. Photo by AFP

In its press release on Friday, cantonal authorities announced that Jura is now “among the most critical regions” in Europe.

As of Friday morning 50 coronavirus patients are hospitalised in the canton, up from 11 one week ago.

Meetings, gatherings or demonstrations of more than 15 people, including children, will now be prohibited. Restaurants, cafés and bars must close at 10pm.

In these establishments, a maximum of four people can be seated at the same table, with the exception of people living in the same household. Late night bars and clubs must remain closed.

Team and contact sports are banned with the exception of professional private practice and individual training. Fitness centres must remain closed. Ski camps, sports camps, and study trips are suspended.

Wearing a mask is compulsory at all times in the workplace, both in public and private companies. It is also mandatory for students in the perimeter of secondary and post-compulsory schools when they are not seated in class.

In Fribourg, gatherings of more than 10 people in public and private spaces will be banned, the Council of State said in a statement on Friday. This ban particularly applies to events such as political, cultural and civil demonstrations.

Nightclubs, cabarets casino, gaming rooms, billiards, bowling, and other entertainment facilities will be closed. All other establishments must close at 11pm and can only accommodate groups of four people per table, unless the customers live in the same household.

Neuchâtel raised its alert level to red on Friday, meaning that the outbreaks of Covid-19 are spreading at an alarming rate. 

Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited in public and private spaces, with the exception of funerals.

Public establishments must close by 11 pm at the latest.

In restaurants, the number of people is limited to a maximum of four per table,  with the exception of people living in the same household. Gyms, wellness centres, swimming pools and bowling alleys are closed.

READ MORE: Valais implements 'Switzerland's strictest' lockdown measures as infection rates 

The new restrictions in the three cantons are in addition to the national ones implemented by the Federal Council on October 19th in response to Switzerland’s skyrocketing infection rate. 

They include mask requirement in all indoor public spaces, capping public gatherings at 15 people, and private events at 100. 

However, if the numbers get out of hand, authorities will “consider more drastic measures”, Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga warned.

This could mean a ‘mini lockdown’, if the infection curve does not flatten out soon, Sommaruga said.

In addition to nationwide measures, each canton can implement its own stricter rules, above and beyond those mandated by the federal government, Sommaruga pointed out.

For instance, canton Bern announced  the ban on events involving more than 1,000 people, even though such gatherings are currently authorised, under stringent conditions, in the rest of the country. 

And Valais, where the infection rate has soared, mandated new measures from October 22nd. 

They include the closure of bars, nightclubs, brothels, cinemas, theatres, museums, libraries, public swimming pools, and bowling alleys.



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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”