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CHRISTMAS

EXPLAINED: What you are still allowed to do in Switzerland this Christmas

Recent government measures restrict many festivities traditionally associated with the holiday season. But some activities are not banned.

EXPLAINED: What you are still allowed to do in Switzerland this Christmas
Despite restrictions, Swiss Christmas can still be merry. Photo ny AFP

It is certain that Christmas celebrations will be much different this year than we are accustomed to.

Switzerland’s government has ordered new national restrictions from December 13th to January 22nd to curb the increasing rate of Covid-19 infections. 

Among them are limits on the number of people allowed  to get together — up to five people from two households, with exceptions for up to 10 people from December 24th to 26th, and on December 31st for Christmas and New Year festivities.

This rule excludes large gatherings that are traditional in many families. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that a number of enjoyable activities that bring ‘comfort and joy’ to many people are still possible.

Shopping

In stores, the number of square metres per customer is now 10 — up from four previously — to ensure more space and fewer people in stores at the same time.

This means a more pleasant shopping experience for everyone, as it will prevent overcrowding in the stores, which so often happens during the busy Christmas season.

Small get-togethers

Ten people is better than none. Think of these gatherings as more personal and intimate, where you can interact with people much better than during big blowouts. Plus, smaller groups make it easier to maintain distance between people rather than huddle together and facilitate virus transmission.

Eating out

Though restaurants and bars will have to close at 7 pm in most of Switzerland, they can stay open until 11 pm in the Swiss-French regions, which have managed to keep their infection rates under control for the time being.

This means you can still eat out, even if it’s only for breakfast, lunch, or afternoon coffee.

But on December 24th and 31st they can remain open until 1 am.

Skiing

Unlike neighbouring countries, which have banned skiing this Christmas, Switzerland is allowing this activity, under strict conditions. 

Masks will be mandatory not only in closed spaces such as mountain trains and cable cars, but also on open-air chair lifts and T-bars, as well as in queues.

In addition, queuing will be regulated so it runs in an orderly manner and without major clusters.

The number of passengers in closed ski cabins will be lowered to two thirds of the usual capacity.

And cantons must ensure that they have the hospital capacity and the ability to undertake testing and contact tracing.

Still, despite a raft of rules, slopes are open, and that is good news for a nation of avid skiers. 

Outdoor activities

There are few rules in place for those who want to spend Christmas outdoors, whether hiking, cross-country skiing, sledding, or engaging in other winter activities.

Being outdoors in open spaces is safe if distances can be maintained.

So while some holiday activities are banned or scaled down, there is still lots to enjoy during the Christmas season. 

 

 

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For members

COVID-19

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

After several months of a relatively low number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland, the rate of infections rose by over 22 percent in a span of seven days this week. What measures are Swiss health officials planning to prevent a new wave?

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

The Swiss government has said that “further waves of infections are to be expected in the fall/winter of 2022/2023″.

As in previous waves, “the main objective of managing the pandemic is to prevent an overload of the health system. It is currently difficult to predict the magnitude of the waves of infection and, therefore, the burden on the healthcare system”, it added.

According to current estimates, “it can be assumed that ordinary structures will be sufficient to manage the situation”.

However, unless new, deadly variants emerge in the near future, health officials  expect the new wave to be milder than the ones  that struck in the winter of 2020 and 2021.

There are several reasons for this optimism:

Higher immunity

Due to vaccinations and infections, “it is estimated that 97 percent of the Swiss population has been in contact with the virus”, which means that “immunity within the population is currently high”, authorities said.

Lighter course

This means that unlike the early Covid strains like Alpha and Delta, which were highly virulent, the latest dominant mutation — Omicron and its subvariants — while highly contagious, are also less dangerous for most people.

New vaccines

The new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th.

Compared to the original vaccine, which was effective mostly against early strains and offered no protection against Omicron, “the new vaccine produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, according to the drug regulatory body, Swissmedic.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters

Is the government planning any specific measures this winter?

While the severity of the new wave is not yet known, authorities have made several ‘just-in-case’ provisions by, for instance, extending the Covid-19 law until June 2024.

This legislation, which was approved in a referendum in November 2021, allows the Federal Council to maintain and apply emergency measures that are necessary to manage the pandemic. Without the extension, ithe law would lapse in December of this year.

READ MORE: Covid-19 law: How Switzerland reacted to the referendum results

“No one wants to reactivate the Covid law. But after two years of the pandemic, we have understood that we must be ready”, said MP Mattea Meyer.

While no mask mandates or other restrictions are being discussed at this time, the re-activated legislation would allow the authorities to quickly introduce any measures they deem necessary, according to the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

More preparations from the cantons

As it would be up to the cantons to apply measures set by the federal government, some have asked that financing be made available in case regional hospitals have to again accommodate patients from other cantons.

They are also making sure enough intensive care beds are ready for Covid patients.

What about the Covid certificate and tracing?

Though it is no longer used in Switzerland, the certificate continues to be required abroad.

The government will ensure its international compatibility.

The legal basis for the SwissCovid tracking app will also remain in force and can be reactivated during the winter of 2023/2024, if necessary.

MPs are also debating possible rules to be enforced for cross-border workers in the event of border closures.

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