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Is Switzerland really a ‘coronavirus paradise’ compared to Germany?

German tabloid Bild on Sunday compared the coronavirus situation in Germany and Switzerland, reporting that the freedoms in the latter made Switzerland a “coronavirus paradise”. But is it really?

Is Switzerland really a 'coronavirus paradise' compared to Germany?
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

According to a report published on Sunday by German tabloid Bild, the Swiss canton of Zug is a “city of happiness” full of “happy people who have the courage to live”. 

The tabloid, which paid a visit to the central canton of Zug on April 11th, was critical of Germany’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and suggested they should take a leaf out of the book of their southern neighbours. 

In particular, Bild wrote that the rules in Switzerland were much clearer and easier to understand as they were put in place across all of the country’s 26 cantons, unlike the supposed ‘patchwork’ of rules in place in Germany. 

“What is allowed in Switzerland and what is not fits on a beer mat” the tabloid wrote. 

‘It feels like a coronavirus paradise’: The Bild article from April 11th.

Is Switzerland really a coronavirus paradise? 

The report is part of a long-running series by the German tabloid – one of the most persistent critics of Chancellor Angela Merkel – which contrasts the supposed freedom afforded to people in Switzerland with the stricter rules of Germany. 

On closer examination however, the report does gloss over some of the major differences between the two countries. 

First and foremost, while the differences in coronavirus rules from canton to canton may be less significant than they are across German states, this has not always been the case. 

Indeed, for the majority of the pandemic, neighbouring Swiss cantons put in place vastly different rules – leading to concerns of people travelling across borders to go shopping or visit restaurants. 

The current legal situation in Germany and Switzerland is also remarkably similar, in the there are a set of agreed federal minimums, with states free to put in place stricter measures when certain metrics are met – for instance hospitalisations, infection rates and intensive care unit capacity. 

As at April 2021 however, cantonal variations are comparatively minimal – although several Swiss cantons have considered allowing bars and restaurants with terraces to open even without federal approval. 

Are the rules different in Switzerland and Germany? 

Despite the suggestions made in the report, not all rules in Switzerland are more relaxed. Indeed, some are stricter. 

As in Germany, bars and restaurants have been forced to close in Switzerland (other than for takeaway food and drinks) since late December.

The rules on wearing masks is largely the same in Switzerland and Germany, although most areas require an FFP2 mask in the latter rather than a simple cloth or medicinal mask. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current coronavirus measures?

Masks are required for workers in all indoor areas in Switzerland, unlike in Germany, where they are only required in workplaces with “confined spaces”. Also unlike Germany, in Switzerland masks are also required for all car drivers and passengers (unless they all live in the same household). 

Also unlike in Germany, working from home has been mandatory in Switzerland for several months. In Germany, workers are “strongly encouraged” to work from home where possible, however there is no obligation.

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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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