EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current coronavirus rules you need to know?

Switzerland adopted new federal coronavirus measures on December 12th. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland's current coronavirus rules you need to know?

Note: These measures are currently out of date. For the new measures, click here. 

In a press conference on Friday, December 11th, the Federal Council outlined new rules that will go into effect on December 12th. 

The measures, which will be in effect until January 22nd, are being implement due to the worsening of the epidemiological situation in Switzerland.

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

“Our hospitals and our health workers are being stretched to the limit. We couldn't wait any longer.”

Health Minister Alain Berset added that the restrictions are put in place “to avoid total shutdown”.

While most of the measures have federal effect, there is scope for cantons with a lower reproduction rate (R-Rate) to put in place looser restrictions. 

Note that while the government is debating putting in place stricter measures which will apply in the post-Christmas period, these have not yet been set in stone

How many people may I meet with?

Up to five people from two households can gather for private events, with exceptions for celebrations for up to 10 people from December 24th to 26th, and on December 31st for Christmas and New Year festivities.

Sports and cultural activities will be limited to five people, and museums and will have to remain closed Sundays and public holidays.

Public demonstrations are banned, except for religious celebrations.

More information about the rules in place over Christmas can be found here

What about bars, cafes and restaurants?

Restaurants and bars will have to close at 7pm, instead of 11pm was previously the case.

An exception will be made for December 24th and 31st, when they can remain open until 1am.

However, restaurants and bars in some cantons will be allowed to open until 11pm at the latest.  

This will be where the canton's R-Rate is below one for seven consecutive days – and – the number of new infections per 100,000 people remains below the Swiss average. 

If this is the case, the cantonal authorities can decide to allow bars and restaurants to open later – although they can also decide not to. 

Currently, seven cantons meet this threshold, the majority of which are in French-speaking Switzerland.

Geneva, Vaud, Fribourg, Neuchâtel, Jura and Valais – which have been able to lower their contamination rate due to a raft of measures that had been taken in November, along with Obwalden. 

Currently, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Friborg, Geneva and Jura have decided to allow their bars and restaurants to open until 11pm, while Valais and Obwalden have allowed bars to remain open until 10pm

Note: These measures are currently out of date. For the new measures, click here. 

Note: This information is correct as at December 16th, 2020. Please keep in mind that this article, as with all of our guides, are to provide assistance only. They are not intended to take the place of official legal advice.

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Reader question: Can Brits in Switzerland donate blood?

For many years, people coming from the United Kingdom were banned from donating their blood in Switzerland. This is what the situation is right now.

Reader question: Can Brits in Switzerland donate blood?

The ‘blood ban’ that extended to British citizens or those of any nationality who had lived in the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), was implemented for safety purposes.

The reason was the so-called mad cow disease (BSE), which was particularly rampant in Great Britain in the 1980s and 1990s.

Many people contracted and even died from the cattle-borne condition known scientifically as Creutzfeld-Jakob disease.

It is believed that one in 2,000 people in the UK is a carrier of the disease. 

While most of them got BSE from eating contaminated beef, “experience tells us that the disease could be transmitted from human to human via blood”, according to a BBC report.

As a result, a number of governments, including the Swiss, prohibited people from the UK to donate blood.

However, this rule is no longer in force in Switzerland.

According to Geneva’s university hospital (HUG), which is a member of the national blood transfusion network Blutspende and follows the same rules, only people who had lived in the UK between 1980 and 1996 for more than six months at a stretch still can’t donate blood.

This is a period when the BSE outbreak was at its worst in the UK.

If you had lived in Great Britain prior to or after that date, you can safely donate your blood.

Have there been any BSE cases in Switzerland?

About 465 cases had been reported in Switzerland between 1990 and 2020, with less than 20 deaths.

There are still isolated cases of BSE throughout Europe, but they are no longer a cause for as much concern as previously.

Can everyone donate blood in Switzerland?

Gay men are still not allowed to do so.

Under Swiss law, any man who has had sex with another man is prevented from donating blood for 12 months — the legislation was introduced during the the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s, while the 12-month rule was introduced in 2017.

However, in March 2020, the National Council’s Commission for Social Security and Health said the rule was “no longer appropriate” and filed a motion to rescind it. 

READ MORE: Switzerland to clear way for gay and bisexual men to donate blood

Who else is prevented from donating blood?

According to Blutspende, these medical and other conditions disqualify people from donating blood in Switzerland:

  • Positive test for HIV (AIDS), syphilis, hepatitis C and hepatitis B
  • Prostitution
  • Past or present drug use by injection
  • Blood transfusion after 01.01.1980

These reasons could be a cause for deferral though not an outright ban:

  • Stay during the past six months in a region where malaria is endemic, without any health problem (in case of illness with fever, tell the doctor at the blood donation centre).
  • Suffering from a sexually transmitted disease during the past 12 months
  • Change of sexual partner during the past four months
  • Sexual intercourse with multiple partners during the past 12 months
  • Stay of six months or longer in the past 12 months in countries with a high HIV-prevalence

More information about blood donation in Switzerland can be found here.