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COVID-19 RULES

Reader question: Where do I still need to wear a mask in Switzerland?

Despite a much publicised end to mask rules on April 1st, masks are still required in some places. Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: Where do I still need to wear a mask in Switzerland?
Depending on where you are flying to, masks may no longer be required on these two airlines. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Since shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic, wearing masks in public spaces has become standard across Switzerland and much of the globe. 

Masks had been compulsory in indoor public spaces in Switzerland since October 29th, 2020 until February 17th of this year, when the mask requirement was lifted except for public transport and health establishments.

And from April 1st, masks don’t have to be worn in any publicly-accessible places.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Switzerland to scrap Covid certificate and most mask rules

This doesn’t mean, however, that faces no longer have to be covered anywhere in Switzerland, under any circumstances. In fact, masks remain compulsory in certain places, such as hospitals and transport. 

In dropping the mask-wearing obligation from April 1st, the Federal Council specified that each canton is “free to impose stricter protective measures or to exempt certain institutions from the mask requirement. Individual establishments may still stipulate that visitors must wear a mask, for example in medical practices or hairdressing salons.”

And this is exactly what happened.

Cantons of Zurich, Basel-Country, Basel-City, Bern, Fribourg, Jura, Valais and Geneva still maintain the mask obligation in health institutions, such as hospitals and elderly care homes, for staff and visitors alike.

And you will likely find that most doctors’ practices and other medical venues where sick people tend to congregate will still have signs asking people to put on their masks.

READ MORE: Easter holidays: What to expect if you’re coming to Switzerland

What about travel?

Planes are under the ”public transportation” category as well, but they have different mask-wearing rules than local ground transportation like trains and buses.

That’s because airplanes travel internationally and have to comply with rules at their destinations.

For instance, though SWISS has been gradually lifting its mask-wearing requirement for passengers and crew members aboard its domestic flights, “facemasks will still need to be worn on flights for which this is required by the country of destination”, the airline said, adding that passengers will be advised of applicable regulations before their flight.

In what is now becoming an industry standard, the same mask policy is in place at other airlines flying to and from Switzerland, including SWISS’ sister company Edelweiss Air, and EasyJet.

The same also applies to international train travel, as well crossing the border(s) to neighbouring countries to shop; it’s best to check ahead of time what rules are in place, as they are bound to change quickly.

For example, a mask must still be worn on public transport in the neighbouring regions of Alsace, France and Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

In Italy, high grade FFP2masks continue to be required on all types of domestic public transport (both local and long-distance); enclosed cable cars and chair lifts, including at ski resorts; and at shows, screenings, events and competitions open to the public (whether indoors or outdoors).

In all other indoor public spaces, lower grade surgical (but not cloth) masks can be used from April 1st. 

Masks should also be worn in nightclubs and discos, but can be removed when someone is dancing.

And even though you may not be impacted by this particular regulation yourself, Swiss soldiers are still to wear an FFP2 mask in all indoor spaces.

READ MORE: Reader question: Do I still need to be vaccinated to visit Switzerland?

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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For members

DRIVING

Must I have a ‘CH sticker’ on my car when I leave Switzerland?

Some vehicles in Switzerland display the 'CH' sticker, while others don’t. But what exactly are the rules when you cross the border(s) in your car? This is what you should know.

Must I have a 'CH sticker' on my car when I leave Switzerland?

You may be surprised to learn (or perhaps not, as this is Switzerland, where there is law for practically everything), that the CH sticker is a requirement, not an option.

Article 45 of the OETV (Ordinance concerning the technical requirements for road vehicles) clearly states that all motor vehicles must display the oval, black-and-white sticker when leaving their home territory.

According to this legislation, all vehicles, including motorcycles, trucks, and trailers traveling abroad  “must bear a distinctive sign of nationality, i.e. the CH sticker, clearly visible on the rear of the vehicle”.

In other words, just as you must have a proof of your nationality when you leave the country, so must your car. Just be thankful that your passport or ID card are carried in your hand and not affixed to your rear.

To be clear, this legislation applies only to cars that travel abroad; if you never leave Switzerland at all, the sticker is not a requirement.

Actually, to be fair, the Swiss can’t be blamed entirely for this rule.

This obligation stems from the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, passed in 1968, which Switzerland has also ratified.

“This international treaty provides for the possibility of integrating the distinctive sign of nationality into the registration plate”, according to Touring Club Suisse (TCS) motoring organisation.

It appears, for reasons we are not privy to, that the red cross that is embossed onto all plates “does not meet the requirements of the Convention, so it is not recognised as a distinctive sign”, TCS added.

Therefore, “the CH sticker remains compulsory”.

READ MORE: Why does Switzerland use ‘CH’ and what does it mean?

What format should the sticker have?

This is what the law says:

  • Height x width of the oval: 11.5 x 17.5 cm
  • Height x width of the letters: 8 x 4 cm
  • Line thickness: 1 cm

This means the smaller versions of the sticker that you sometimes see on cars are not compliant.

Your car’s ‘passport’. Image: Wikicommons. 

What about the placement?

This too is regulated by law:

It must be affixed at the rear of the vehicle, horizontally to its main axis, between 20 cm and 1.50 m from the ground, depending on the type of vehicle.

It must also be clearly legible and unobstructed.

An important point to keep in mind is that while you yourself may have two passports, your car cannot be a dual national and have other stickers. If it resides permanently in Switzerland, it should bear the CH sign only.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How visitors to Switzerland can avoid driving penalties

Where can you purchase these stickers?

They can be bought for about 5 francs in a variety of places, such as petrol service stations, motoring sections of hardware stores like Hornbach and Jumbo, or do-it-yourself sections of Coop and Migros.

What are the fines for driving without a sticker abroad?

There is no official data about this, but according to TCS, “we know of people who have been fined during their stay abroad for the absence of a distinctive sign on the back of their vehicle. Complying with the law therefore makes it possible to avoid unpleasant surprises abroad”.

Is the CH sticker the only one required to be affixed to a Swiss car?

For foreign travel, yes.

But if you drive on Switzerland’s motorways, you must have a ‘ vignette’ on your windshield. It costs 40 francs.

The vignette must be replaced each year from January 1st, whereas the CH sticker is valid for life — the car’s, not yours.

READ MORE: Swiss vignette: What you need to know about Switzerland’s motorway charge sticker

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