Covid-19: Switzerland imposes new restrictions on Christmas shoppers
Access restrictions went into effect in Swiss stores on Tuesday to stem the spread of coronavirus during the busy festive season.
Among the measures that the Federal Council is implementing from December 22nd are those relating to shopping.
The retailers not only have to close at 7pm, but fewer people are now allowed to be inside shops at the same time. And Sunday opening is not allowed.
In stores that generate less than two-thirds of their sales with groceries, only one person per 10 square metres or one person per 20 square metres is allowed to enter, depending on the size of the shop. In shops that sell mostly food, only the 10-square-metre rule applies.
The rush is likely to remain high in the coming days as stores will be closed from December 25th to 27th. This means that many people will be doing their shopping on Christmas Eve, when some shops close at 4 pm.
The new measure will inevitably cause longer queues in front of stores, as people scramble to do their last-minute Christmas shopping, retailers say.
"With stricter access measures, the waiting times will increase", Christa Markwalder, president of the Swiss Retail Federation, said in an interview.
“It would have made more sense to keep the stores open longer hours so that customers could spread out better”, she added.
As business after 7 pm is not allowed, chains like Coop and Lidl are extending their hours by opening some of their stores as early as 7 am.
Queues in front of shops have been forming as soon as the government made its announcement about the new measures on Friday.
Zurich politician Camille Lothe posted a photo on social media showing a long line of people waiting to enter a store.
Die verkürzten Öffnungszeiten und gestrichenen Sonntagsverkaufe führen jetzt zu langen Warteschlangen vor den Geschäften. Das Ziel des Bundesrates wird hier klar verfehlt. Bei längeren Öffnungszeiten hätten die Kunden sich besser verteilen können. pic.twitter.com/to4T7vNwgP— Camille Lothe (@CamilleLotheZH) December 19, 2020
“The objective of the Federal Council is clearly missed here. With longer opening times, the customers could have spread out better”, she wrote.
Other measures that go into effect on Tuesday is the closing of restaurants and bars in most of Switzerland, as well as shutting down sports of cultural and leisure facilities. They will have to remain shut until at least January 22nd.
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.
The new rules are put in place because "the number of infections is very high and is continuing to rise”, the Federal Council said.
“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".