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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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TRAVEL NEWS

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.”

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