Three Swiss cantons impose new face mask requirements

Three Swiss cantons impose new face mask requirements
Masks are to be worn outdoors. Photo by AFP
In response to the increase in Covid-19 infections in their cantons and in other Swiss regions, authorities in Ticino, Bern and Valais are tightening their rules regarding the wearing of masks outdoors or in school settings.

In Ticino, masks are becoming obligatory outside when the minimum safety distance of 1.5 metres cannot be observed. The new rule is implemented as of Tuesday October 27th.

The Italian-speaking area is the second Swiss canton to impose masks outdoors, after Appenzell- Ausserrhoden, which enacted this measure on Monday.

The Ticino State Council also banned amateur sports involving physical contact from Wednesday. 

Exceptions are made for professionals, children's training, and sports lessons in compulsory schools.

In addition, and in line with regulations implemented in other cantons, customers in Ticino restaurants can eat only while sitting down, a maximum of four people per table, unless they are members of the same family. For private events, the limit is set at 15 people.

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

Masks in schools

The cantons of Bern and Valais are imposing mask requirement in secondary and vocational schools.

In Bern, wearing a mask is compulsory from Tuesday. Students must wear them during lessons and within the school perimeter.

Adults will have to wear a mask during lessons, on the school grounds, and in all buildings.
Schools are also advised to give up contact sports.

In Valais, students in orientation cycles will have to wear a mask after the autumn holidays, which means on October 29th in Haut-Valaisan areas, and November 2nd in the rest of the canton.

Masks will be compulsory not only inside the schools, but also in outdoor spaces, including school transport and schoolyard.

Measures already implemented in other Swiss cantons are listed here.

The federal government is expected to decide Wednesday on new nationwide restrictions to control the spread of the virus.

According to a report leaked last week, mask requirement will be expanded from indoor public spaces to some outdoor areas as well, as is now the case in the two cantons, as well as in Italy and many locations in France.

But is this strategy really effective in curbing the spread of Covid-19?

“From a scientific point of view, there is no evidence that wearing the mask outside stops contaminations”, said Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva.

“To my knowledge, all the outbreaks reported so far happened in enclosed, crowded and poorly ventilated areas”, he pointed out.

However, Flahault agreed that putting on a mask outdoors is a good idea when it is not possible to maintain a distance of 1.5 meters in crowded places.

Philippe Eggimann, president of the Vaudois Medicine Society (SVM), said people should have better habits when it comes to protecting themselves outside.

“Taking off your mask as soon as you get off the train when the platforms are full is not a good idea, yet I see too many people do that. Also, as wearing your mask under your nose in the middle of the street is ineffective ”, he noted.

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