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COVID-19 ALERT

UPDATE: Switzerland to scrap Covid certificate and most mask rules

Switzerland will wind back most Covid restrictions including the Covid certificate and rules for masks and entry from Thursday, February 17th, the Swiss government confirmed on Wednesday.

Swiss health minister Alain Berset speaks in front of a Swiss flag

The centrepiece of the new announcement will be a complete relaxation of the Covid certificate requirement. 

In making the announcement, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said “from midnight, you will no longer need a Covid certificate”. 

ANALYSIS: Switzerland ends most Covid restrictions — but what’s next?

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. 

Covid certificates can however be required by the cantons.

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

Covid certificates can also be issued for the purposes of travel abroad and visiting the EU, the government confirmed on Wednesday.

Q&A: Everything you need to know about Switzerland relaxing Covid measures

Existing Covid certificates remain valid for international travel and the EU, provided the underlying reason for the certificate is valid (vaccination, recovery or negative test). 

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

Restrictions on private events will be relaxed. 

All Covid-related border restrictions will also be relaxed from Thursday. 

“It will no longer be necessary to provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test or complete an entry form” the government wrote. 

The recommendation to work from home has also been relaxed, which may have consequences for cross-border workers. 

Switzerland: Cross-border workers may be penalised for working from home

The Swiss government will also no longer cover the costs of Covid testing in most cases, other than for “healthcare and socio-medical institutions”, or in companies that form a part of Switzerland’s “critical infrastructure”. 

School testing will remain funded until March. 

Payments for those who have lost earnings due to the pandemic and the subsequent measures will cease as of Thursday, February 17th. 

What measures are still in effect? 

The most notable measure which will remain in place is the mask requirement in public transport. 

Berset said while people can avoid shopping – even supermarket shopping – this was not the case with public transport. 

“You can avoid shopping, for example with online shopping or by adjusting the time you go shopping. This is not the case in public transport,” he told the press on Wednesday. 

The government said this will be maintained in the meantime, but may be relaxed in the future as the situation allows it. 

Another measure which will remain in place is the isolation requirement for those who have tested positive. 

Anyone who has tested positive in Switzerland is required to isolate for five days. 

While Berset said this looks to be relaxed at the end of March, it was still important to stop the spread of the virus. 

“Anyone who has tested positive is very contagious in the short term… The most contagious people can be taken out of circulation in this way.”

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said the isolation measure reflected solidarity in broader society. 

“You also stay at home when you are sick. Society demands that people stay at home when they are sick,” he said

Switzerland has registered more than 2.6 million Covid-19 cases and over 12,500 deaths during the pandemic and currently has a vaccination rate of 70 percent.

Why are measures being relaxed? 

Since May of 2021, the major metric in determining whether to put new measures in place has been hospitalisations and ICU capacity rather than infection rates. 

EXPLAINED: Why did Switzerland relax Covid measures?

The Swiss government cited this in their press statement, saying they were not concerned the relaxation could lead to a rise in severe cases of the virus and hospital admissions. 

“The epidemiological situation continues to develop positively,” the government wrote on Wednesday. 

“Thanks to the high level of immunity among the population, it is unlikely that the healthcare system will be overburdened despite the continued high level of virus circulation.

“For the Federal Council, this means that the conditions are in place for a rapid normalisation of social and economic life.”

Click here for the government’s official press release announcing the new measures. 

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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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