All remaining COVID rules to be scrapped in Switzerland from April 1
After more than two years of COVID restrictions in Switzerland, the Federal Council has confirmed that the remaining coronavirus regulations will be phased out from April 1. It comes as the number of COVID cases in Switzerland has declined in recent weeks, after reaching record highs earlier in the year.
End of COVID rules in Switzerland announced
In a press conference on Wednesday, the Federal Council announced that the remaining COVID measures in Switzerland are to be scrapped. For weeks, there has been debate as to whether a hybrid system would be adopted, but now it is confirmed that all federally mandated rules will be removed.
The council confirmed that, while it was still monitoring COVID closely, issuing COVID certificates and procuring vaccines, its frontline role in combating the pandemic was at an end for now. Recently, cases have once again started to fall in Switzerland, with "only" 14.393 COVID-19 cases being reported on March 29.
At the press conference, Health Minister Alain Berset said that the increased level of immunity among the population meant that the rules could be scrapped. It has now been 763 days since the government began monitoring COVID, with Berset noting that the disease is now likely to become endemic.
Which COVID-19 rules are being phased out in Switzerland?
As of April 1, the face mask rule will no longer be mandatory in public transport or in hospitals. The government did stress in the lead up to the announcement that people are still allowed to wear masks if they want to.
In addition, the requirement to self-isolate for five days after a positive COVID test will also no longer apply. Official advice will replace the rules, so that those who are ill are only "recommended" to avoid returning to work or school. The government will continue to pay for COVID tests for people who have symptoms.
COVID rules to be handled by Swiss cantons
As part of the announcement, the government said that it would stop using pandemic legislation to enforce the rules, although these may be reactivated if the “extraordinary or special situation” returns. For now, the country will return to a “normal situation,” according to Watson, meaning the federal government will not be as involved in Swiss healthcare.
From now on, it will be up to Swiss cantons to enforce whatever pandemic legislation they deem necessary, as well as provide testing and vaccination centres. They will also be tasked with guaranteeing that there is enough capacity in Swiss hospitals. Cantons will be able to reimpose measures like mask mandates, quarantines and a ban on events to combat a COVID resurgence, should one occur.
Switzerland prepares for COVID wave in the autumn
In spite of these relaxations, the government is stepping up preparations for the autumn. This includes making sure each canton is ready for a mass testing and vaccination campaign later in the year.
Finally, the Federal Council and medical experts will be closely monitoring how the rule change will impact hospitalisations and will be following the progress of the virus until at least the spring of 2023. If the situation deteriorates, the government is prepared to reintroduce rules as they are required.