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EXPLAINED: What Covid-19 restrictions are still in place in Switzerland?

Many coronavirus measures will be lifted in Switzerland from June 26th, but some still remain. These are the ones that will stay in place, at least for now.

EXPLAINED: What Covid-19 restrictions are still in place in Switzerland?
Masks will still be required indoors. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The Federal Council announced on Wednesday a further relaxation of coronavirus measures, including rules relating to travel, masks, sport, restaurants and events.

In fact, the easing of measures is more extensive than previously thought, including the date when the new rules will go into effect — on June 26th instead of the 28th.

READ MORE: IN DETAIL: What are Switzerland’s new relaxed coronavirus measures?

The only exception are travel rules — for instance, allowing vaccinated Americans and other tourists from third nations to come to Switzerland — which will enter into force on June 28th.

These rules are going to be eased:

People will no longer be required to work from home, with the obligation replaced by a recommendation to do so, while mandatory testing no longer needs to be carried out in the workplace. 

Limits on the number of people who can sit at a table indoors will be lifted completely, with the government previously indicating they would rise from four to six. The limits will also be lifted outdoors. 

The maximum number of people at events will also be lifted, with events of up to 1,000 people now allowed without approval and events of up to 10,000 people requiring approval. 

You can see the complete list of new rules here.

All this may seem like there will be practically no more pandemic-related restrictions left in Switzerland after June 28th. However, this is not the case. Some rules will remain in place, until further notice.

These restrictions are still enforced:

Limit on private gatherings

Asked about private parties during a press conference on Wednesday, Health Minister Alain Berset said that even though public events will be allowed to accommodate more people, current rules for private get-togethers will remain in force: 30 people indoors and 50 outside.

He specified that this rule pertains to people who organise parties in their apartment, house or garden — places where authorities can’t carry out random checks to see of rules are respected.

Masks

From June 26th, masks will no longer be required in busy, publicly accessible outdoor areas, including on restaurant terraces, in bus stops, train stations, leisure facilities, and on chair lifts. 

Masks will also no longer be required in the workplace, under certain conditions.

“Employers still have a duty to ensure that staff are protected, but are free to decide where and when masks should be worn”, the Federal Council said.

The government is also lifting the requirement for masks to be worn in schools at upper secondary level. The cantons will assume responsibility for setting rules covering baccalaureate, specialised and vocational schools.

However, mask requirement still remains in effect in some places.

Masks will be required indoors, such as in shopping centres, public buildings, and on public transportation. 

They will also still need to be worn in indoor areas where it is impossible to check someone’s Covid immunity card or where the 1.5-metre distance between people can’t be kept. 

EXPLAINED: Do I still need to wear a mask at work in Switzerland?

Travel

While restrictions related to vaccinated tourists from third countries will be lifted from Monday, allowing them to come to Switzerland without a Covid test, some regulations still remain.

They pertain to non-immunised travellers who will have to show a negative test result and, in case of people from high-variant countries like Brazil, Canada, India, South Africa, Nepal, and the UK, also quarantine upon arrival for 10 or seven days.

UPDATE: Switzerland confirms vaccinated Americans can enter from June 28th

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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