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Will Switzerland relax mask rules for vaccinated people?

Swiss health experts don’t see eye to eye on the subject of masks for people who are immune to the coronavirus.

Will Switzerland relax mask rules for vaccinated people?
Until experts reach a common conclusion, we'll be wearing masks for a while. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland first put in place its compulsory mask rules in public transport in July of 2020.

Since then, masks have been required in more and more areas across the country – a rule which remains in place today. 

In some countries, such as the United States, mask rules have been relaxed as a consequence of widespread vaccination campaigns. 

While Switzerland’s vaccination campaign trails that of the US, it is gradually picking up speed.

But could this mean masks will no longer be required? 

Confusion among government and experts

When it comes to masks for people who have been vaccinated, lack of clarity and common policy prevails among health experts and the Swiss government, reports news outlet Watson.

The confusion is fuelled by divergent opinions among experts on the importance of masks for vaccinated people.

For Virginie Masserey, head of the infection control section at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), there are no medical reasons for continuing to wear the mask after having been vaccinated with two doses.

“Basically, fully vaccinated people don’t transmit the coronavirus. So they don’t necessarily have to take measures to prevent transmission”, she said.

She was quick to point out, however, that from a practical point of view, “in a community where the mask is compulsory, we can’t differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated people”.

It’s hard to imagine police checking the entrances to stores to find out who received the two doses, she added.

However, Martin Ackermann, head of the Covid -19 Task Force, contradicted Masserey’s assessment.

“The vaccine protects against infections very well, but not 100 percent”, he said.

 “If I am vaccinated, I can still be infected and contaminate someone. Fortunately, this risk is very limited. Depending on the situation, a mask may still be indicated to further reduce this risk”, he added.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Why are Switzerland’s coronavirus numbers falling so sharply?

Asked by a journalist if masks will be part of our lives forever, Ackermann responded:  “That’s not what I meant. It all depends on the context. In some cases, it may be appropriate to wear a mask in the future. But we can assume that under normal circumstances it won’t be necessary”.

Without a unanimous decision on this matter, FOPH’s Masserey added that “in the current situation where many people are not yet immune, it is important that everyone respects the measures”.

Based on these responses, it doesn’t look likely that the requirement to wear masks in stores, on public transportation, and in other crowded places will be lifted anytime soon.

However, the FOPH set some exemptions on mask wearing for vaccinated people.

For instance, “You do not have to social distance or wear a mask at private gatherings with other fully vaccinated people”, it said.

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Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists

Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival announced on Friday that it was forced to drop the acts of four UK-based artists from its summer program because they haven’t been fully vaccinated yet.

Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists
British singer-songwriter Rag'n'Bone Man was dropped from Montreux Jazx Festival. Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

The move was done in order to comply with current Covid-19 entry rules into Switzerland, which state that from June 26th, travellers from outside the Schengen zone, including Brits, will only be allowed to enter Switzerland if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. 

READ ALSO: Switzerland relaxes travel rules for vaccinated Americans and Brits: What you need to know

British soul singer Rag’n’Bone Man who was one of the headliners for the 2021 edition of the festival, which starts on July 2nd, will now no longer be able to attend due to not being fully vaccinated.

Other unvaccinated acts based in the UK who were also dropped because of the new entry rules include Inhaler, Alfa Mist and the Yussef Dayes Trio.

The artists have already been replaced with other performers from around Europe including Italian singer Zucchero, Woodkid, Dutch songwriter Benny Sings and Danish jazz trio Athletic Progression.

In a statement on June 25th, festival organisers said they were trying to make sure that the concerts of the other UK artists would continue to go ahead, however it is tricky because of fears over the Delta strain of the Covid virus, which has now become dominant in Britain.

“Whether or not these artists can come depends on their vaccination status and that of their touring entourage, as well as their ability to quarantine at the start of their European tour or before their concert at Montreux,” they said.

The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of just a small handful of big music festivals in Switzerland that will still go ahead this summer. Other music events such as St Gallen Open-Air, Paléo and Bern’s Gurten festival have been cancelled for the second year in a row, due to ongoing fears over the Covid-19 virus.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: What rules do European countries have for travellers from the UK?