UPDATE: First Swiss canton calls for Covid certificate in public transport and shops

Switzerland's expanded Covid certificate rules will come into effect from Monday, but one Swiss canton plans on going further.

UPDATE: First Swiss canton calls for Covid certificate in public transport and shops
An SBB train going fast. Photo: Photo by Kajetan Sumila on Unsplash

The Swiss government’s plan to require Covid certificates in bars, restaurants, gyms and private events has been met with broad approval among the cantons since the proposal was first floated on in late August. 

EXPLAINED: What will Switzerland’s expanded Covid certificate look like?

Currently, Covid certificates – which show if someone is vaccinated, recovered or tested negative – are required for nightclubs, discos and events with more than 1,000 people in Switzerland. Covid certificates are also required for travel in some instances.

On Wednesday, September 8th, the government announced the certificate would be required in bars, restaurants, gyms and some private events from Monday, September 13th. 

Authorities in Graubünden have gone one step further, saying they support the introduction of a mandatory Covid certificate requirement for public transport and retail stores. 

Under Graubünden’s plan, only those who have been vaccinated, tested negative or who have recently recovered from the virus and thereby hold a valid Covid certificate would be able to use public transport or visit retail stores

While the plan may be a first in Switzerland, similar plans are in development in Germany. 

Department of Justice chief Peter Peyer welcomed the tighter federal rules as “a step in the right direction” and “a necessity”, but also said more needed to be done to encourage vaccinations. 

“The more people put in the effort and get vaccinated, the less they understand that it is still necessary to wear a mask when traveling by train or running errands.”

‘No alternative’

Authorities in Graubünden, sometimes known in English as Grisons, said in late August there is no reasonable alternative to an expansion of the Covid certificate to public transport. 

Now, on September 9th, they’ve called for the certificate to be required in retail shops, but not in supermarkets. 

In addition to requiring it in indoor areas as suggested in the government proposal as well as public transport, the certificate would be mandatory in the workplace. 

“There is no alternative to vaccination and testing. Accordingly, the certificate requirement, should it be introduced, should be extended to all possible areas,” the government said in a press release. 

It should also be checked for public transport, the world of work and, if the mask requirement is lifted, also for shops.

In justifying its position, the government said it is focused on not letting the hospitals get overcrowded – with one eye on the upcoming winter season. 

“In addition, the measures must be sustainable, so that the autumn and winter seasons in particular can be carried out safely,” the statement read. 

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Covid boosters not available in Switzerland until autumn

The Swiss government will not make second Covid boosters available until autumn, saying those who are currently fully vaccinated face a low risk of contracting the virus.

Covid boosters not available in Switzerland until autumn

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) announced on Tuesday that second Covid booster shots for general population will be available in the fall, “when the risk for individuals and the burden on the healthcare system will be greatest”.

While Switzerland had a widespread booster shot campaign against Covid, the government has been reluctant to approve second boosters other than for those in vulnerable categories. 

Right now, those with a weakened immune system and people over the age of 80 are the only ones eligible. 

People not in those risk groups who want a second booster will need to pay out of pocket for the jab. 

This may be people who feel they are in a risk group but are not included in the government’s list, or those who need a booster for travelling abroad. 

People who are travelling to countries where proof of up-to-date immunisation is required but whose Covid certificates are no longer valid, can receive the fourth dose but upon request have to pay for the shot.

Previously, all Covid boosters have been free for Swiss citizens and residents, with the government electing to cover the costs. 

How much will a Covid booster for travel cost? 

While the federal government previously covered the costs of the vaccines, it is now up to individual vaccination centres to set a price for a second booster. 

A spokesperson from the FOPH told The Local on Wednesday that the cost tends to be around CHF60 across much of the country. 

Please keep in mind that this cost only relates to second booster shots for those not in vulnerable categories. For those wanting their first booster – or indeed their first or second shot of the vaccine – the government will continue to cover the costs.