Policy responses for Switzerland - HSRM


Policy responses for Switzerland

1.2 Physical distancing

Changes as of 19.10.2020:

Recommendation for home office
The Federal Council added a paragraph on working from home to the Ordinance on Measures during the Special Situation to combat the COVID-19 Epidemic. Employers are required to observe the recommendation of the Federal Office of Public Health for employees to work from home.

Restrictions for bars, clubs and restaurants
In restaurants, bars and clubs, food and drink may only be consumed when seated, both in-and outdoors.

Ban of spontaneous gathering of more than 15 people
Spontaneous gatherings of more than 15 persons are not permitted in public spaces, including town squares, paths and parks. 

Requirements for private events
Private events should be avoided whenever possible. At private events with 16 or more people, food and drink may only be consumed while seated. Anyone not sitting on their seat must wear a mask. The general rules on hygiene and social distancing must be observed and contact details recorded. For private events with more than 100 people, there must be a set of precautionary measures, and these events may only be held in publicly accessible venues.

Wearing of masks compulsory in public transport facilities throughout Switzerland
The existing requirement for masks to be worn on public transport has been extended to the waiting and access areas for public transport. It therefore applies on platforms and in railway stations too, for example.

Wearing of masks compulsory in all publicly accessible inside spaces throughout Switzerland
It is mandatory to wear a mask in all publicly accessible establishments and inside spaces, including shops, banks, cinemas and restaurants.

Changes as of 29.10.2020:

No recreational sporting or cultural activities with more than 15 people
Recreational sporting and cultural activities are only permitted indoors for up to 15 people if a sufficient distance can be maintained and if masks are worn. A mask does not have to be worn if there is a generous amount of space, such as in tennis halls or large rooms. Outdoors it is only necessary to ensure that people keep their distance. Contact sports are prohibited. These rules do not apply to children under the age of 16.

With regard to professional sporting and cultural activities, practice and training sessions, competitive events, rehearsals and performances are permitted. Performances by amateur choirs are prohibited, although professional choirs may continue to practise.

Restrictions on public and private events
A maximum of 10 people can take part in private events among friends and family (which do not take place in publicly accessible places, for example at home). The limit on numbers of people include children.
Events with more than 50 people will no longer be permitted. This concerns all sporting, cultural and other events. The exceptions to this rule are parliamentary and communal assemblies. It is still permitted to hold political demonstrations and collect signatures for referendums and initiatives – as long as the necessary precautionary measures are taken.
Further restrictions for restaurants and bars
No more than four people are allowed to sit at a table in restaurants and bars, with the exception of families with children.
All bars and restaurants must close between 11pm and 6am.
The following still applies: food and drink may only be consumed sitting down.

Discos and nightclubs are closed
Discos and nightclubs are closed and the holding of dance events is prohibited.

Extended mask-wearing requirement
Nationwide mask-wearing requirement applies additionally to:
• outside establishments and facilities, such as shops, venues, restaurants and bars, or at farmers’ and Christmas markets
• in busy pedestrian zones and wherever the required distance cannot be maintained in public spaces
• in schools from upper secondary level upwards
• in indoor spaces at work: masks must be worn as soon as two people are in contact with each other at work, for example in open plan offices or meeting rooms

Changes as of 02.11.2020:

Ban on face-to-face teaching at higher education institutions
Higher education institutions had to switch to distance learning. Classroom teaching is still permitted at compulsory school level and at upper secondary schools (baccalaureate and vocational schools).

Changes as of 09.12.2020:

Further capacity restrictions for businesses
In businesses where several people can move around freely (e.g. shops), at least 10 m2 of space must be available for each person. For smaller businesses with a surface area of up to 30 m2, at least 4 m2 of space is required for each person.

Additional rules for restaurants
In restaurants throughout Switzerland, contact details for at least one guest per guest group or table have to be registered, as it was already the case in various cantons. Physical distancing must be observed between different guest groups. I

Communal singing
Apart from within the family circle and in compulsory schools, communal singing is prohibited both outdoors and indoors.

Requirements for ski areas and winter sports resorts
Ski areas require authorisation from the canton and must submit a set of strict precautionary measures. In all closed means of transport, such as cabins and gondolas, only two thirds of the seats/standing spaces may be occupied. Masks are mandatory on all mountain railways and cable cars, as well as on ski lifts and chairlifts. A mask must be worn when queuing, and physical distancing must be observed. Restaurant guests in ski areas are only permitted to enter a restaurant if a table is free for them. Larger winter sports resorts must draw up precautionary measures to govern the flow of people within the resort in particular.

Recommendation for private gatherings
It is strongly recommended that private gatherings be limited to two households.

Recommendation to work from home
Increased recommendation for people to work from home.

Changes as of 12.12.2020:

Restricted opening hours for catering businesses
Catering businesses must remain closed between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. Exceptions apply for catering operations in hotels (for hotel guests only), for take-away establishments and on public holidays: on 24 December and New Year`s Eve, closing time is not until 1 a.m.

Restricted opening hours for public businesses and establishments
Public businesses and establishments must close between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Ban on events
Public events are prohibited. Exceptions include, in particular, religious celebrations (up to a maximum of 50 people), funerals attended by family and close friends, parliamentary assemblies and political demonstrations.

Limited group size for recreational activities
Amateur sports and cultural activities are now only allowed in groups of up to five persons. Activities (excluding competitions) are still permitted for children and young people below the age of 16.
Opinions of the cantons differ considerably
In the consultations preceding these decisions, the cantons essentially agreed with the assessment of the epidemiological situation. A majority of the cantons welcomed more uniformity in the measures being applied. Many were also calling for the federal government to act directly to impose effective measures to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic. However, a large majority of the cantons did not agree with the actions the Federal Council is taking.

Changes as of 21.12.2020:

United Kingdom and South Africa: quarantine
All persons who have arrived in Switzerland since December 14, 2020 from the United Kingdom or South Africa must go into quarantine and report to the cantonal authorities.
United Kingdom and South Africa: entry ban
An entry ban applies for foreigners wishing to enter Switzerland from the United Kingdom or South Africa. Flight connections with these countries have been suspended.

Changes as of 22.12.2020:

Restaurants and bars closed
Catering businesses are to be closed. Only company canteens, school canteens and restaurants for hotel guests are permitted to remain open. Takeaways and delivery services are still permitted.

Cultural, entertainment and recreational facilities closed
Cultural, entertainment and recreational facilities are closed. This includes cinemas, museums and exhibition halls, reading rooms in libraries and archives, casinos and amusement arcades, concert halls and theatres, and also indoor areas of botanical gardens and zoos and any of their outdoor areas that cannot be freely accessed.

Sports and wellness facilities closed
Sports and wellness facilities are closed. This includes sports and fitness centres, artificial ice rinks and swimming pools. The following remain open: ski areas (subject to cantonal authorisation) and other facilities in open terrain, equestrian sports facilities and facilities in hotels provided they are only accessible to hotel guests.
Relaxation of measures possible in individual cantons
Cantons which register a favourable development in the epidemiological situation can opt to relax certain restrictions and allow restaurants and sports facilities to open, for example. Of particular importance here are the R-number, which must be below 1, and the 7-day incidence, which must be below the Swiss average. Sufficient hospital capacity must also be available.

Further restriction on the number of people in shops
Further restrictions are being imposed on the number of people allowed in non- food shops at a time.

Extended use of rapid tests
Rapid antigen tests and other forms of rapid test may also be done on people who do not meet the FOPH criteria (asymptomatic individuals). Rapid tests can then form an integral part of precautionary measures for hospitals and old- people’s homes or at the workplace. Rapid tests must always be done by trained medical personnel.

Urgent recommendation: stay at home
The population is called upon to stay at home. People should keep their social contacts to a minimum and refrain from non-essential journeys and outings.

Changes as of 09.01.2021:

Revocation of cantonal exceptions regarding opening of businesses and opening hours
The following rule no longer applies: A canton can open restaurants, club and leisure establishments or extend opening hours if certain epidemiological conditions are met.

Changes as of 18.01.2021:

Closure of shops selling goods that are not day-to-day necessities
Shops and markets must close, with the exception of shops and open-air markets providing day-to-day necessities. The restrictions on opening hours for these shops and markets have been lifted. The restrictions on opening hours remain in place for businesses providing services.
Maximum of 5 people at private gatherings
A maximum of 5 people may take part in gatherings of family and friends. This number includes children.

Maximum of 5 people at gatherings in public areas
Gatherings in public areas are limited to a maximum of 5 people. This number includes children.

Compulsory homeworking
Employers are mandated to order homeworking wherever this is possible with reasonable effort .

At work: compulsory mask requirement indoors
At the workplace masks must be worn wherever there is more than one person in a room or vehicle. It is no longer sufficient to keep a distance between workspaces in the same room.
Protection of vulnerable people
There must be specific protection mechanisms for employees who are in vulnerable groups. Depending on the circumstances this may mean a right to work from home or even exemption from the obligation to work.

For detailed information on changes to national measures, please see: https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov/massnahmen-des-bundes.html#757183649 

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