Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset announced on February 17th that some of the country’s coronavirus measures would be relaxed from March 1st.
The Swiss government announced that non-essential shops, museums and library reading rooms will reopen, along with outdoor sports and leisure facilities, zoos and botanical gardens, from March 1st.
While the next stage in reopening was scheduled for March 22nd, the government announced on May 19th that the threat posed from the virus – and particularly the heavily prevalent mutations – would prevent the opening of outdoor areas at restaurants, changes to the requirement to work from home, and a limited number of spectators at sporting and cultural events.
How will the opening up work?
The relaxations will take place in stages on the first of each month, dependent of course on low infection rates – particularly with regard to new mutations of the virus.
“The Federal Council is aiming to achieve a gradual normalisation of social and economic life, and at the same time avoid a third wave of the disease,” it said in a statement.
“From March 1, shops, museums and library reading rooms should be allowed to reopen, as well as outside spaces at zoos and botanical gardens, and at sports and leisure facilities,” the government said in a statement.
Bars, restaurants and sporting events must remain closed to the public however, the government announced.
The obligation to work from home remains, as are masks in offices and workplaces.
Prior to March 1st, the previous rules – which can be seen here – will remain in force.
Here is an overview of the measures which have been in effect since March 1st.
Meeting in larger groups
The rule on meeting in groups outdoors would be relaxed from five to 15 people.
A maximum of ten people will still be allowed to meet indoors, up from five in early to mid-March.
Children are counted in the tally.
While not a rule, the government still recommends that no more than two households meet at one time (up to the maximum number).
Non-essential shops and markets are allowed to open. Mask requirements and capacity restrictions will however remain.
Supermarkets, pharmacies, post offices, hairdressers, gas stations, laundries, hardware stores and garden stores were not closed as part of the lockdown and therefore remain open.
Museums and cultural facilities
Museums, libraries, zoos and botanical gardens will also again be allowed to open.
Sports facilities – including football pitches, ice rinks, tennis courts and skate parks – are again allowed to open, however only groups up to a maximum of five people will be allowed.
Masks are mandatory and distance must be kept.
While competitions, tournaments and events with adults are not allowed, these are allowed for children under 18.
Ski areas will remain a decision for the cantons.
The federal government requires that cantons make their decisions to open or close ski facilities on the basis of test capacity, hospital capacity, contact tracing infrastructure and only where a ‘hygiene and safety concept’ has been provided.
No tests for children under 12 entering Switzerland
Children under 12 will be exempt from the testing requirement imposed when entering Switzerland. This rule is effective immediately.
Antigen tests in some cases allowed for entry into Switzerland
Antigen tests will in some cases also satisfy the entry test requirement into Switzerland. Previously, this was only PCR tests.
However, antigen tests – otherwise known as rapid tests – must have been carried out in the past 24 hours, compared with 72 hours for PCR tests.
Please click the following link for more information on antigen and PCR testing when arriving in Switzerland.
Switzerland’s existing coronavirus measures are set to expire on February 28th, meaning that the above mentioned relaxations will come into effect from March 1st.
What will happen in April?
Further relaxations were planned for April 1st, but were delayed due to infection rates remaining high. The next possible date for a relaxation of measures is April 14th.
The federal government had planned to allow restaurants with gardens and terraces to reopen.
“Further reopening phases will follow at monthly intervals as long as the epidemiological situation allows. That way, there is sufficient time between phases to monitor developments,” the government said in a statement.
“More activities should be permitted progressively if infection rates are favourable and as vaccination rates rise.”
How will Switzerland make decisions in future?
The planned openings will be allowed if infection rates remain low. This means that all of the following will be taken into account, but none of the metrics are ‘automatic’.
Specifically, the ‘positivity rate’ – i.e. the percentage of coronavirus tests which are positive – must remain below five percent.
The occupancy rates in intensive care units must be below 25 percent.
The reproduction rate (r-rate) – i.e. the average number of people infected by each infected person – must remain below one over the previous seven days.
Another key metric in deciding to pursue further openings in April is that the 14-day incidence – i.e. the number of people infected per 100,000 people in Switzerland – is lower on March 24th than on the 1st of March.