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When will Switzerland relax Covid face mask rules?

The apparent lower potency of the Omicron variant may lead to an earlier-than-expected relaxation of most Covid measures, besides mask mandates. But when will we see our fellow Swiss' smiling faces again?

A person wearing a mask walks past a Swiss flag in the region of Verbier
When will Switzerland relax the mask mandate? Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

On Wednesday, February 2nd, Switzerland is expected to confirm quarantine rules and the working from home obligation will be relaxed. 

On the same day, the government will meet to discuss a further relaxation of Covid measures which could include no longer requiring Covid certificates in cafes and restaurants. 

According to a report in Switzerland’s SonntagsZeitung newspaper from Sunday, January 30th, which the newspaper said is based on information received from federal authorities, the Covid certificate requirement in indoor venues like cafes and restaurants, as well as other places and events where it is currently compulsory, would be relaxed from February 16th.

The limit on the number of participants in private settings would also be lifted on that day, according to the report. Only the masks and testing of symptomatic people would reportedly remain compulsory under the plan.

These changes are set to be announced on February 2nd, SonntagsZeitung said, and would be implemented two weeks later, after a consultation with cantons.

One aspect that will remain in place regardless however is rules for masks in indoor and busy areas. 

Masks are one of the cheapest and most effective ways of preventing the spread of the virus, which has seen them become an essential tool in the arsenal of public health authorities across the globe. 

Currently, masks are required in indoor areas of shops, supermarkets, bars, restaurants and other event venues, while they are also required in public transport and the workplace. 

Masks are also required in publicly accessible areas outdoor, such as train station platforms and at sports events. 

When will Switzerland relax mask rules? 

As yet, no concrete date for relaxing mask rules has been laid out. 

In Denmark and Great Britain however, mask rules have already been phased out. 

Former Basel canton doctor Thomas Steffen said mask mandates should be relaxed in the coming weeks. 

“If things go well, the mask requirement could be completely eliminated at the beginning of March,” Steffen told Swiss tabloid Blick on Tuesday

Steffen recommended first relaxing mask rules at work, before moving on to areas where it is more difficult to avoid each other, like public transport. 

University of Zurich Department of Public and Global Health boss Jan Fehr said it is a question of when, not if, that mask mandates are wound back – but said the decision should not be taken lightly, particularly if it resulted in needing to reintroduce the requirement. 

“You shouldn’t turn too many ‘adjusting screws’ at the same time,” Fehr said, referring to the other planned relaxation of measures in February. 

“As many (people) as possible must have basic immune protection against the corona virus before the mask can be largely dispensed with.”

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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