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Swiss restaurants, hotels and canteens push for separate areas for the unvaccinated

Some Swiss hotels, restaurants and work canteens are pushing for people not vaccinated against Covid-19 to be served in different areas, with some having already implemented separate areas so the two don't mingle.

Separate dining areas are being set up in Swiss restaurants for those vaccinated or not.
With winter approaching, is having separate zones for the vaccinated and unvaccinated a solution? Photo by Raphael Schaller on Unsplash

The Covid certificate requirement is prompting restaurants in Switzerland to find new ways to accommodate all customers, guests and employees. 

The certificate requirement that has been in force since September 13th bans those who are not vaccinated, recovered from coronavirus, or tested negative, from accessing bars, restaurants, and other indoor venues.

While this is not illegal or even discriminatory, it prevents a sizeable portion of the population from taking advantage of services they used to enjoy before the measure was implemented.

READ MORE: Why Switzerland’s Covid certificate is ‘not discriminatory’

However, some businesses have found a way around this requirement.

Public broadcaster Swiss Radio and Television (SRF) has subdivided its canteen into separate areas for certificate holders and those without.  

Another establishment, the Hotel Seegarten Marina in Spiez, Bern, now requires its guests to wear specific colour bracelets on their wrists, based on whether they are vaccinated, recovered, tested or without a certificate.

Depending on the status (and colour of the bracelet), they are admitted to the hotel restaurant or denied access.

Although one customer has publicly complained about this measure, claiming that it poses a problem in terms of data protection, hotel manager Ernst Fuhrer said this method is accepted by around 95 percent of his customers.

“The vaccinated wear yellow, the people tested receive a purple bracelet and customers without a Covid certificate wear pink”, one hotel guest told Swiss news site 20 Minutes.

“I said I didn’t want to participate in that game. But I was still given a purple bracelet since my certificate had expired. The bracelet is necessary to be able to eat at a restaurant.”

Industry umbrella group HotellerieSuisse also approves of this measure, stating that it is essential to put in place reliable controls while providing maximum relief to customers and employees.

Will separate areas for the unvaccinated be introduced in Swiss restaurants?

With winter approaching, Swiss restaurants are concerned about lost revenue as they are not allowed to serve those without Covid certificates inside under the current rules. 

Currently, people who do not have Covid certificates can eat and drink outside on restaurant terraces. However, with winter approaching, people will be less willing to sit outside. 

EXPLAINED: How does Switzerland’s newly expanded Covid-19 certificate work?

The move is inspiring others in the restaurant sector.

Urs Pfäffli, President of Gastro Zürich City sees various rooms for vaccinated and unvaccinated guests as a “very good and sensitive solution” in the current situation.

“This would do justice to the principle: as few restrictions as possible, but as many as necessary”, he said, adding that this concept would be easy to implement.

“Many restaurants have several rooms, so this could be done without any effort.”

Gastrosuisse, the umbrella association for the restaurant industry, is also in favour of this move.

“We could set up areas but also times during which we could serve unvaccinated clients,” said the group’s  spokesperson Daniela Kimmisch.

However, some MPs are skeptical that such a set-up would work, including Alois Gmür, who said many establishments don’t have enough room to create different zones.

Restaurateurs would also have to spend a lot of money to set up special sectors for those who have a Covid certificate and others who don’t.

However, he said he understands why many in the sector support this model. “It is unfair that the certificate is compulsory in restaurants, but not in company canteens,” he said.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Switzerland confirms both Chinese vaccines accepted for Covid certificate

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Switzerland proposes travellers pay for Covid boosters

Under a new plan put forth by the Swiss government, anyone who needs a booster shot for travel abroad should pay for it out of pocket.

Switzerland proposes travellers pay for Covid boosters

While Covid shots were previously free for everyone in Switzerland, with the Swiss government picking up the tab, the country has been reluctant to issue a recommendation for a second booster.

As The Local reported on Monday, this means that many people’s most recent shot will soon be more than nine months ago, which is the date at which many Covid passes expire. 

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

Although evidence of vaccination is not required domestically in Switzerland any more, it may pose issues in 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.

Swiss health authorities: Travellers should pay for Covid boosters themselves

According to newest recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), people travelling abroad who need second booster doses must pay for the shots themselves.

As the fourth vaccine dose is currently recommended only for people with a severely weakened immune system, everyone outside of this group will be charged as yet undefined fee.

The proposal was sent to the cantons for consultation until June 1st.

If agreed on, the Federal Council will adjust the Epidemics Ordinance accordingly on June 10th.