What are Switzerland’s plans to relax Covid measures – and will they happen?

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

Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

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.”

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. 

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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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.”