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What are Switzerland's plans to relax Covid measures - and will they happen?

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What are Switzerland's plans to relax Covid measures - and will they happen?
Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference announcing new measures against the coronavirus on October 18, 2020 in Bern. - The Swiss government said on October 18 it was making the wearing of masks in indoor public spaces compulsory under new measures introduced after a "worrying" rise in coronavirus infections. More than 15 people in public would also be banned under the rules to take effect on Monday, while service in restaurants and bars would be restricted to seated customers only. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Switzerland has announced a relaxation of several Covid measures while also announcing two paths towards dropping all restrictions by the end of February.

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Almost two years since the start of the pandemic, there is some good news thanks the combined impact of vaccination and the lower virulence of the Omicron variant. 

Despite higher than ever infection rates, the country’s hospitals and ICUs are stable and as a result the government looks set to further reduce Covid measures. 

EXPLAINED: Why does Switzerland want to end Covid restrictions?

The Swiss government on Wednesday afternoon announced the relaxation of Covid measures, along with a plan to end most remaining measures by the start of March. 

In making the announcement, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said "Today heralds the beginning of a new phase in the pandemic."

"Today is a beautiful day. We see light on the horizon."

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What measures are set to fall? 

The obligation to work from home and the five-day contact quarantine requirement will come to an end at midnight on Wednesday. 

More information about these measures and how they will be relaxed is available at the following link. 

UPDATE: Swiss to end quarantine and working from home obligation from Wednesday

Two paths forward out of the pandemic

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset presented two possible options to the cantons on Wednesday, which were then sent out for consultation until February 9th.

Path one

The first path would see the lifting of almost all Covid measures from February 17th, provided the country has passed the peak of the wave of new infections and vaccinations/boosters continue to progress. 

If this happens, all protective measures would be lifted. Covid certificates would no longer be required for bars and restaurants, for events and for visiting cultural venues. 

Travel: Switzerland proposes end to Covid entry rules

Masks would no longer be required in bars, restaurants, public transport, shops and in other publicly accessible areas. 

There would be no further restrictions on private meetings, while events would no longer need to be authorised. 

Some measures would remain in place, including the requirement to isolate if you test positive, along with safety and hygiene plans for all large events. 

Path two

The second path is more cautious than the first, although it would still see the relaxation of several measures on February 17th. 

Covid certificates would no longer be required for restaurants, although seating would still be compulsory. The 2G rule - i.e. requiring people to be vaccinated or recovered - would apply wherever the 2G+ rule applies (i.e. nightclubs, choirs, swimming pools and saunas and indoor sporting activities). 

There would be no further restrictions on private meetings, while large outdoor events would no longer need to be authorised via a permit. 

Mask rules would remain in place, along with the isolation rule for people who test positive and the 2G rule for certain venues. These would be lifted in future as soon as the situation allows it. 

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Proposed changes to travel rules

The Swiss government has also proposed further changes to travel rules, which will also be decided on by the cantons as part of the consultation process. 

This includes removing all Covid-related entry rules in place in the country. 

The requirement for people who are unvaccinated or not recovered from the virus to be tested on arrival would be dropped. 

The requirement to provide contact details in Switzerland's entry form would also be dropped. 

Tourists would no longer need to get and show Covid certificates, as these would not be in use in Switzerland. If they remain in use, i.e. for larger events as laid out in path two above, then tourists would still be required to show certificates at these events. 

The Swiss government did however say that the overall Covid certificate would not be scrapped even if it was no longer required domestically as this may need to be shown abroad, i.e. for travel or entry to certain venues. 

Click here for the official government press release. 

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