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COVID-19 RULES

Reader question: Do I have to stay home if I catch Covid in Switzerland after April 1st?

The remaining coronavirus measures, including the obligation to isolate after testing positive, will fall from Friday. This is what you should know about the new, rule-free Switzerland.

Reader question: Do I have to stay home if I catch Covid in Switzerland after April 1st?
Unmasked: Health Minister Alain Berset removes his mask during a press conference. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Two Covid-related rules that are still in place — the obligation to wear a mask on public transport and in health establishments, as well as to isolate for five days in case of infection — will fall from April 1st.

This move has been planned since the Federal Council announced the lifting of all the other Covid measures from February 17th.

Does the end of the latter of the two requirements mean you are no longer obligated to stay indoors if you catch Covid?

This is a very pertinent question, especially as for two years, a positive Covid test was followed by a legal obligation to isolate for periods of time ranging from 10 to seven to five days. Those who broke this rule were liable for fines ranging from 50 to 200 francs.

The requirement to isolate was put in place to curb the spread of the virus at a time when the Covid vaccine was not yet available and dominant variants — Alpha and Delta — could lead to a severe course of the disease and serious complications, especially for people with chronic health conditions.

With the emergence of Omicron, however, the Federal Council decided to gradually relax the restrictions, with the last ones falling on April 1st.

READ MORE: Will Switzerland lift Covid restrictions amid rising infections?

Health officials explained that while this new variant is much more contagious than previous ones, it is also far less virulent.  Being infected with Omicron brought on only mild symptoms, similar to those of a common cold, in most people, especially those who had been vaccinated.

While a number of epidemiologists warned against the lifting of restrictions, others pointed out that an Omicron infection “is not necessarily bad news because these contaminations contribute to building our immunity”.

READ MORE: ‘Not bad news’: Why Swiss experts are optimistic about rising Covid cases

So does this mean that come Friday, you can throw caution to the wind and come out of isolation while sick?

If you have only mild symptoms and are feeling well, legally there isn’t anything to prevent you from going out and about.

There is, however, a thing called  ‘individual responsibility’ that has been mentioned so often during the pandemic.

“Even without an obligation to isolate, a sick person should not go to work or out in public”, said  Patrick Mathys, head of crisis management at the Federal Office for Public Health (FOPH).

While this will not be enforced with fines, the government has appealed to people to take steps to stop the spread once the isolation order is relaxed. 

Whether or not this recommendation is heeded remains to be seen. But if you do decide to go out, keep in mind that you might be infecting vulnerable people, so wear a mask.

While you are no longer required to do so, this act would fall under the aforementioned ‘individual responsibility’ category. After all, not being obligated to wear a mask doesn’t mean you should not wear it in situations when you could pass the virus on too others.

By the same token, people who are at risk if infected — for instance, the elderly or chronically ill — must act responsibly as well by wearing masks and taking other precautions when mingling with (unmasked) people.

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For members

SWISS CITIZENSHIP

Reader question: Can I speak any Swiss language to satisfy citizenship rules?

Proficiency in a Swiss language is required to become a citizen, but does it need to be the language spoken in your canton of residence?

Reader question: Can I speak any Swiss language to satisfy citizenship rules?

For anyone wanting to obtain Swiss citizenship through naturalisation, you will need to demonstrate proficiency in one of Switzerland’s national languages. 

Switzerland has four official national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. 

Fortunately, you only need to be proficient in one of these languages.

How to apply for Swiss citizenship: An essential guide

English, while widely spoken in Switzerland, is not an official language of Switzerland and English proficiency will not grant you Swiss citizenship. 

What are the language rules for becoming Swiss? 

Fortunately, Switzerland has relatively recently changed its language requirements, making them far less confusing to understand and navigate. 

Decent language skills have always been necessary for Swiss citizenship but requirements used to vary depending on the canton. 

But under the 2018 changes, which came into effect on January 1st, 2019, there is now a uniform minimum level of language proficiency required on a federal basis. 

Candidates must demonstrate A2 level writing ability (elementary) and B1 (intermediate) spoken skills. This is the level set out in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Cantons are free to set a higher bar if they wish, as Thurgau has done by requiring citizenship candidates to have B1-level written German and B2 (upper intermediate) spoken German. The rules are also stricter in St Gallen and Schwyz. 

More information is available at the following link. 

Naturalisation: How well must I speak a Swiss language for citizenship?

Does it need to be the language spoken in my canton of residence? 

Moving to Switzerland, it may appear you have three world languages to choose from, although by and large this is not the case. 

As the tests are done at a communal level, the language in the commune in question is the one you need to speak

Therefore, if you have flawless French and live in Schwyz, you need to improve your German in order to make sure you pass the test. 

While some Swiss cantons are bilingual, this is comparatively rare at a municipal level. 

A Swiss Federal Supreme Court case from 2022 held that a person is required to demonstrate language proficiency in the administrative language of the municipality in which they apply, even if they are a native speaker of a different Swiss language. 

In that case, a Cameroonian who arrived in Switzerland at the age of eight with French as her native tongue was required to demonstrate proficiency in German in order to be successfully naturalised in the German-speaking commune of Thun. 

What are The Local Switzerland’s reader questions?

As part of our service to our readers and members, we often answer questions on life in Switzerland via email when people get in touch with us. 

When these have value to the greater Local Switzerland community, we put them together as an article, with ‘reader question’ in the headline. 

All readers of The Local Switzerland can ask a reader question, i.e. you do not need to be a member. If you do find our reporting valuable however, then please consider signing up

You do not need to live in Switzerland to ask a reader question, i.e. you could be coming to Switzerland for a holiday and have a specific question. However, the questions have to be related to Switzerland in some way. 

We will only turn a question into a reader question article where it has value to the broader Local community and where we can answer it.

READ MORE: What are The Local Switzerland’s reader questions?

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