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EXPLAINED: How will Switzerland enforce the Covid certificate in private homes?

Switzerland has flagged a Covid certificate requirement for private gatherings with more than 11 people. How will this be enforced?

Swiss Interior and health Minister Alain Berset. Image: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Swiss Interior and health Minister Alain Berset. Image: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

PLEASE NOTE: Switzerland has since scrapped a plan to enforce the certificate requirement in private homes. Click here for the up to date measures. 

Switzerland on Tuesday put a range of new measures out to the cantons for consultation, with a definitive answer expected on December 1st. 

With few exceptions, this has tended to be the process for adding – and removing – Covid measures since the start of the pandemic. 

More information about the measures is available at the following link. 

READ MORE: Switzerland flags new measures, expansion of Covid certificate

One of the major measures was requiring Covid certificates for private gatherings. 

Private meetings – including those with family and friends – with more than 11 people are to be limited to those with a Covid certificate under the measures. 

At a press conference on November 30th, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said the measure required the common sense of people in Switzerland, but added that the government would not be sending the police to patrol people’s private homes. 

“We won’t be going from house to house to check how many people are there” Berset said. 

He called upon Swiss to take personal responsibility. 

While the surprising measure may have conjured images of your uncle scanning Covid certificates at the door before Christmas dinner, in reality it is reflective of a desire to minimise contact generally, particularly among the unvaccinated, who are more vulnerable to serious courses of the virus. 

The measures are also more relaxed than those in place last year. 

Previous measures in place included a limit of five people in private rooms, regardless of vaccination status. 

Studies have shown that Covid infections are particularly prevalent in private settings and gatherings. 

What is the background to the decision? 

Just two days after a nationwide referendum where voters backed the government’s powers to make Covid rules, Switzerland’s Federal Council has flagged a range of new Covid measures. 

The Federal Council said tighter rules were clearly needed, with rising case numbers and dwindling hospital capacities creating a “critical situation” in the country. 

‘Critical situation’: Switzerland’s new coronavirus hotspots

“If the development continues at the rate of the past few weeks, a nationwide overload of the intensive care units cannot be ruled out,” the government said in a press release. 

The concern is also fuelled by the newly discovered Omicron virus variant, which some experts believe is more infectious.  

“There is a risk that the previous vaccines will be less effective and that a previous infection with SARS CoV-2 will provide less protection against renewed infection,” the government said. 

The measures, which were approved by the Federal Council, have now been put out to the cantons for consultation, with a final decision to be made on Wednesday, December 1st. 

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For members


Reader question: Which Swiss cantons will keep the Covid certificate in place?

Several Swiss cantons have expressed a desire to keep the Covid certificate in place. What does that mean for the relaxation of Covid measures?

Reader question: Which Swiss cantons will keep the Covid certificate in place?

On Wednesday February 16th, Switzerland announced an imminent relaxation of almost all Covid measures. 

The decision was made after a two-week consultation with Switzerland’s cantons to decide the way forward out of the pandemic. 

The government announced that almost all Covid measures are being relaxed from Thursday, February 17th.

Covid certificates – which show someone has been vaccinated, recovered or in some cases has tested negative – will no longer be required in restaurants, cinemas or at events.

Masks will no longer be required in shops, supermarkets and the workplace, while they will continue to be required in public transport for the meantime. 

More information about the relaxed measures can be found at the following link. 

UPDATE: Switzerland to scrap Covid certificate and most mask rules

What does this mean at a cantonal level? 

While the federal government no longer requires Covid certificates, they can however be required by the cantons, under the new framework.

Swiss media has previously reported that several cantons want to keep the certificate in place.

READ MORE: Swiss cantons divided on ending Covid measures

During the consultation period, several cantons expressed reservations about completely removing the certificate requirement. 

The small, centralised and predominantly German-speaking cantons of central Switzerland — Zug, Schwyz, Uri, Nidwalden, Obwalden and Glarus —  were in the greatest hurry to return to pre-Covid rules.

These cantons argued that a gradual lifting would be too complicated and difficult for the population to understand.

The southwestern canton of Valais preferred this approach as well, but only “as long as the number of cases and hospitalisations continue to decrease by mid-February”. Otherwise, the lifting of the measures should be done in stages.

However, Geneva, Basel-City, Neuchâtel and Jura said it was too early to lift remaining measures.

“It is too risky at the moment, given the still high load in hospitals”, according to Basel-City, which added that “the effects of the first relaxations, such as teleworking and quarantines, are also not yet known”.

Will some cantons still require a Covid certificate?

Berset clarified on Wednesday that while some cantons had argued for this as part of the consultation process (i.e. on a federal level), they would most likely not unilaterally keep the certificate rule in place from February 17th onwards. 

Berset however said he would need to clarify the matter with cantonal representatives and did not rule out some cantons deciding to keep the certificate in place in some instances – for example in relation to nightclubs or large events.

As at Wednesday afternoon, no cantons have indicated they will keep the certificate requirement in place.