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Bars, restaurants and events: Which Swiss cantons want stricter Covid certificate rules?

Several Swiss cantons have agreed with the federal calls for stricter Covid pass rules, including requiring certificates to eat in restaurants.

Switzerland's Covid certificate app. Photo: FOPH
Switzerland's Covid certificate app. Photo: FOPH

With infection and hospitalisation rates on the rise in Switzerland, representatives from some cantons – along with the cantonal health directors – have called for stricter Covid certificate rules. 

Currently, Switzerland’s Covid certificate is only required in nightclubs and for large events, but some cantonal officials have agreed with federal calls for it to be introduced in restaurants and other venues. 

The Covid certificate shows that you have been vaccinated against the virus, have contracted it recently or have tested negative. 

UPDATED: How to get Switzerland’s Covid-19 health pass

From a comparative perspective, Switzerland has some of the loosest Covid certificate rules in Europe. 

In most of Switzerland’s neighbours, a Covid pass or certificate has been required to visit bars and restaurants – along with gyms, hairdressers and most events – for some time. 

Cantonal health directors want tighter Covid certificate rules in Switzerland

Lukas Engelberger, Health Director of Basel-Stadt and President of the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors (GDK), says tighter rules are needed at a federal level. 

In late August, Federal authorities indicated they favoured an extension of the Covid certificate. 

READ MORE: Switzerland wants Covid certificates obligatory to enter bars and restaurants

“We would be happy if the Federal Council were to include an extension of the certificate requirement in the consultation this week,” Engelberger told 20 Minutes. 

Engelberger said such a move would prevent or at least limit future lockdowns, which are likely considering increases in hospitalisation across the country. 

“That (trend) is problematic for the hospitals. A certificate requirement for certain occasions, areas of activity and companies is the obvious step.”

Michael Jordi, GDK secretary, said a uniform approach was the most appropriate way to ensure success. 

“Measures at the cantonal level only make sense if the infection rate is very different from region to region.”

Which cantons might go it alone? 

A handful of cantons have already put in place stricter measures. 

In Jura and Valais, anyone working in the health or social sector must be tested regularly from the start of September if they do not have a Covid certificate. 

Bern and Geneva also have a similar rule for those working in nursing homes. 

Several Swiss cantons have publicly indicated they are supporting the plan to put in place stricter Covid certificate rules, although all have said they would prefer a national solution. 

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Basel City – where Engelberger is the health director – says the certificate should be required for events and gastronomy, among other possible restrictions. 

Zurich said it supports the federal plan “especially since this is clearly preferable to further measures such as closings”.

Similar moves are being considered in Aargau, where officials say it will achieve positive health and economic objectives. 

“The certificate would be a milder measure compared to closings and event bans.”

Authorities in St Gallen want to extend the certificate to bars, restaurants, hospital visits, nursing home visits and events if hospitalisation rates reach a certain threshold. 

In Graubünden, authorities have said they support Covid certificates being introduced in public transport and in the workplace

In fact, only five cantons have publicly expressed reservations about tightening: Nidwalden, Obwalden, Lucerne, Neuchatel and Zug. 

Zug health director Martin Pfister has said however that a federal solution is necessary, pointing to the fact that people in his canton would likely cross cantonal borders if rules were tightened in Zug alone.

Member comments

  1. Italy has shown us that there is a danger in requiring different rules for indoor and outdoor dining.
    Their experience was that restaurants would direct those customers who had been vaccinated to the indoor tables so as to keep the outdoor tables free for unvaccinated guests. That created a backlash from the vaccinated who felt they were being denied the most pleasant dining experience, and increased the resistance to getting the jabs from people who didn’t want to be forced indoors.
    We heard this from Italian friends we met this weekend.

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What will Switzerland do about the ‘millions’ of expiring Covid certificates?

In the coming months, millions of Covid certificates are set to expire in Switzerland. What will the government do about it?

What will Switzerland do about the ‘millions’ of expiring Covid certificates?

As certificates are valid for nine months after the second vaccine dose or a booster, “millions of Swiss Covid certificates will expire by autumn at the latest”, according to Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes.

As many Swiss received their most recent shot in late 2021, the nine-month period will soon be coming to an end. 

Although this is not a problem domestically as proof of vaccination is no longer required in Switzerland, it may pose issues for travel. 

Since many countries still require a vaccination certificate for entry, and as the second round of boosters is not yet available in Switzerland,  this means that a large number of people may not be able to travel abroad.

And while other countries have already started to administer second booster shots, Swiss health authorities are dragging their feet, not having even issued a recommendation for the fourth dose yet.

This worries some MPs, who are calling on the government to make second boosters available soonest possible.

“The past has shown that cantons are not always sufficiently prepared. Something like this mustn’t happen again”, said MP Fabian Molina, adding that anyone travelling abroad should be able to be re-vaccinated if they wish. 

Another deputy, Yvonne Feri, noted that the federal government and the cantons have to prepare to vaccinate again within a short period of time.

READ MORE: Reader question: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?