Policy responses for Switzerland - HSRM


Policy responses for Switzerland

1.2 Physical distancing

By the beginning of July, most physical distancing measures had been eased under the condition that precautionary measures were taken to avoid spreading of the virus. The following link provides a detailed account of all easing measures, including measures on physical distancing, that have taken place and are still to take place since April 27: https://www.newsd.admin.ch/newsd/message/attachments/61813.pdf 

In brief, medical practices, hairdressers, etc. were allowed to re-open already on April 27. Schools for children of compulsory school age reopened on May 11. Upper secondary schools and higher education institutions re-opened on May 27. Gatherings of up to 300 people have been allowed since June 6 and gatherings of up to 1 000 people since June 22 (see also section 5). The only measures that currently remain in place are certain restrictions on border crossings (see section 6), a ban on gatherings of more than 1 000 people, and the requirements to apply precautionary measures.

On June 22nd, and in view of the low number of cases, the minimum distance that should be kept between two people was reduced from 2 metres to 1.5 metres. If masks are worn or partitions are in place, the distance may be further reduced. At events with fixed seating, such as at concerts or in cinemas, it is sufficient to leave a free space. If it is not possible to implement distancing measures at an event or in schools, attendance lists must be kept so that contacts can be traced in the event that someone tests positive for coronavirus.

The public is strongly recommended to wear a facemask when using public transport, if it is not possible to maintain the necessary distance. All travellers should always have a facemask with them. There is no upper limit for the number of people able to attend a demonstration, but it is mandatory to wear a facemask.

Decisions on whether employees should work from home or return to the office is now up to the employer. The recommendation to work from home is lifted, as well as the guidelines on protecting people at especially high risk. Individuals at especially high risk may return to the workplace but the employer is required to protect them by putting appropriate measures in place.

Sources and links:
• Neues Coronavirus: Situation Schweiz: https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/de/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov/situation-schweiz-und-international.html 

On February 28, the Federal Council classified the situation in Switzerland as a “special situation” in accordance with the Epidemics Act (which has been in force since 01.01.2016). Major private and public events involving more than 1000 people were banned immediately and the ban was planned to last at least until March 15. Cantons were responsible to enforce the ban.

On March 6, the Federal Council released information and recommendations for the work environment, with a focus on vulnerable persons. They defined company-specific protective measures, which should be implemented with the participation of the employees. Besides recommendations for hygiene measures, employees should, if operationally possible, keep their distance from each other, for example by creating spatial adaptations, office splitting, telework/home office, etc. Absence from work had to be considered for particularly vulnerable persons who would have been exposed to an increased risk of infection at the workplace if telework/home office or other temporary employment was not possible. To avoid overburdening of healthcare facilities, goodwill was to be applied when requesting a medical certificate. It was to be requested only from day 5 (instead of the usual 3-day rule). In addition, employees were advised to avoid travelling in public transport during rush hours as far as possible. Employers were asked to organise the working hours of their employees as flexible as possible so that rush hours could be avoided.

On March 13, the Federal Council banned events with more than 100 people with immediate effect until the end of April. Cantons were allowed to grant exceptions if there was an overriding public interest and if protective measures were taken. The same applied for leisure facilities, such as museums, sports centres, swimming pools and ski resorts. Restaurants, bars and discos were only allowed to accommodate a maximum of 50 people. Until April 4, all attendance at schools, universities and training centres was prohibited. Cantons Childcare facilities had to remain open for children who could not be looked after privately. Also, for primary school children cantons could create childcare facilities in order to avoid children from being looked after by their grandparents. 

On March 16, the Federal Council declared the “extraordinary situation” in accordance with the Epidemics Act. This allowed the Federal Council to order the introduction of uniform measures in all cantons. The cantons were given prior notice of the move. All shops, restaurants, bars, and entertainment and leisure facilities had to close until April 19. Food stores, takeaway businesses, company canteens, food home delivery services and pharmacies were able to remain open, as were petrol stations, railway stations, banks, post offices, hotels, public administrations and social institutions. Hospitals, clinics and medical practices remained open, but had to forego non-urgent medical procedures and treatments. People at especially high risk were recommended to work from home. If that was not possible, they had to be placed on leave by their employers, but continued to receive their pay.

On March 20, the Federal Council decided to ban gatherings of more than five people, persons who did not comply with this could be fined. People in groups of fewer than five people, not living in the same household, had to keep a distance of at least two metres from each other. The police was allowed to impose a fine for non-compliance. Employers in the construction sector and in industry were also required to comply with federal recommendations on hygiene and social distancing. Employers had to limit the number of people present on construction sites or in other workplaces, and prevent groups of more than five people from gathering in break rooms and canteens. The cantons were allowed to close down individual companies or construction sites if they did not comply. Visits by family, friends and acquaintances to institutions such as old people's homes, nursing homes and facilities for people with disabilities were prohibited, except if a person was about to die.

The Federal Council has decided to make wearing a mask on public transport compulsory throughout Switzerland. Startingng July 6, persons over the age of 12 have to wear a mask in trains, trams and buses, as well as on mountain rail and cableways and on lake and riverboats. Reasons for the new decision were the increasing volume of people travelling and the rising number of new infections since mid-June. An urgent recommendation to wear a mask when travelling on public transport had already existed for several weeks.

Starting August 15, masks have to be worn on all flights taking off from or landing in Switzerland, regardless of the airline.

Sources and links:

• February 28 Federal Council announcement: Coronavirus: Federal Council bans large-scale events: https://www.admin.ch/gov/en/start/documentation/media-releases.msg-id-78289.html 
• March 6 FOPH announcement: Coronavirus: Verstärkter Schutz besonders gefährdeter Personen und Evaluation der wirtschaftlichen Auswirkungen: https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/de/home/das-bag/aktuell/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-78381.html 
• March 13 Federal Council announcement: Bundesrat verschärft Massnahmen gegen das Coronavirus zum Schutz der Gesundheit und unterstützt betroffene Branchen: https://www.admin.ch/gov/de/start/dokumentation/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-78437.html 
• March 16 Federal Council announcement: Coronavirus: Federal Council declares ‘extraordinary situation’ and introduces more stringent measures: https://www.admin.ch/gov/en/start/documentation/media-releases.msg-id-78454.html 
• March 20 Federal Council announcement: Coronavirus: Federal Council bans gatherings of more than five people: https://www.admin.ch/gov/en/start/documentation/media-releases.msg-id-78513.html  
• July 1 news release of FOPH concerning face masks https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/das-bag/aktuell/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-79711.html
• Coronavirus: Large-scale events to be permitted from October under strict conditions and with a permit (12.08.2020) https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/das-bag/aktuell/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-80054.html