UPDATE: What are Switzerland’s current coronavirus shutdown measures?

On December 18th, Switzerland put in place an extensive range of new measures. Here's what you need to know.

UPDATE: What are Switzerland's current coronavirus shutdown measures?
Restaurants in most of Switzerland will close from December 22nd. Photo by AFP

A more comprehensive summary of Switzerland's measures are available here. 

Restaurants and bars, as well as sports, cultural and leisure facilities, were told to close their doors on Friday, December 18th.

Originally, they were set to remain shut until at least January 22nd, however on January 6th, the Federal Council announced an extension of the closures until the end of February

No exceptions were made for Christmas or New Year celebrations. 

What are the rules?

From December 18th, delivery and take-out services will remain possible. Company and school canteens, as well as hotel restaurants, will also be able to continue their activities.

Shops can stay open but their capacities will be limited and the number of customers allowed inside at the same time will depend on the size of the business.

“Restrictions on opening hours continue to apply: shops must remain closed between 7pm and 6am, and on Sundays and public holidays”, the government said.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Switzerland to close all restaurants amid new move to stem Covid-19 surge 

These decisions were taken because “the epidemiological situation is a cause of great concern,” the government said in a statement.

“The number of infections is very high and is continuing to rise. Hospitals and healthcare workers have been under extreme pressure for weeks and the festive period increases the risk of an even more rapid rise in cases,” it explained.

However, Health Minister Alain Berset said that restaurants in cantons where the R-rate is below 1 can remain open. On Friday those cantons were Vaud, Valais, Neuchâtel and Fribourg. 

But even in those cantons, the R-rate is hovering very close to the limit and Berset said restaurants there will be ordered to close once the number exceeds 1.

While eateries and bars remained open in most of Swiss-German regions, they had been shut in the French-speaking cantons since the beginning of November and allowed to re-open on December 10th.

Switzerland, a country of about 8.6 million people, is continuing to see more than 4,000 new cases and 100 deaths each day, despite a wide range of measures taken recently throughout the country.

If the epidemiological situation continues to deteriorate, the Federal Council said it would  take further measures quickly. It will carry out an interim evaluation on December 30th.

In the meantime, skiing will still be allowed under the strict conditions which are currently in place.

They include wearing face masks not only in enclosed 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 sufficient hospital capacity and the ability to undertake testing and contact tracing.

Other measures, which were enforced on December 13th,  are unchanged.

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

They include  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.

Note: This information is correct as at January 4th, 2021. 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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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.”