UPDATE: Valais becomes latest Swiss canton to tighten coronavirus restrictions

The southern canton joins Switzerland’s other French-speaking regions in implementing strict measures to curb the further spread of Covid-19.

UPDATE: Valais becomes latest Swiss canton to tighten coronavirus restrictions
Valais, home of the famous Matterhorn, implemented new Covid restrictions. Photo by AFP

Cantonal authorities announced on Wednesday afternoon that the new rules aim to “avoid saturation of the hospital system”.

Cafés, restaurants, pubs, and bars (including those attached to bakeries, gas stations and train stations, hotels and campsites) will close from Friday at 10 pm until at least November 30th, authorities said.

These new measures supplement the ones already enforced in the canton on October 22nd, which include the closing of all entertainment and leisure venues like cinemas, theatres, fitness centres, swimming pools, and sports facilities.

At that time restaurants and bars were allowed to remain open until 10pm but this will no longer be authorised, “as Valais is still one of the cantons with the most new cases in proportion to its population”, Esther Waeber-Kalbermatten, head of the canton’s health department, said.

Valais is now aligned with the other French-speaking cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Fribroug and Jura, which mandated new restrictions to rein in the spread of the coronavirus on their territory. 

READ MORE: Vaud joins other Swiss cantons in implementing stricter Covid-19 measures 

All these measures go beyond ground rules mandated by the Federal Council on October 28th, which include compulsory masks outdoors in all areas where “the concentration of people does not allow the necessary distances to be respected”, 11 pm curfew for bars and restaurants, the closure of nightclubs and discos, as well as the limit of 10 people for private gatherings and 50 for public events. 

Some cantons in the Swiss-German part, which has been less impacted by the second wave of the pandemic than their French-speaking counterparts, also adopted their own restrictions.

For instance, Obwalden limits public events to 30 people, compared to 50 at the national level.

The ruling applies to public events indoors and out, but not to political assemblies. The same measure is already in force in Schwyz.

In Lucerne, erotic salons are closed and masks are required in cars for people who don’t come from the same household — measures which also go beyond those mandated nationally.

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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.”