Cantonal COVID restrictions in Switzerland: What expats need to know
On March 31, Health Minister Alain Berset declared that the “special situation” in relation to COVID was over and announced that all federally mandated restrictions would be lifted in Switzerland. Now, cantons have now begun to impose their own rules to combat COVID-19. Here's what expats need to know.
Federal COVID rules replaced with cantonal restrictions
From April 1, the government confirmed that the mask-wearing rule on public transport and in hospitals, as well as the isolation obligation, would be phased out. However, this is only at the federal level. With the ending of the government's “special situation,” health and epidemic policy is now the responsibility of Swiss cantons.
Berset was quick to stress that cantons are able to reimpose restrictions if they deem it necessary to curb the spread of the virus. Already, 21 of the 26 cantons have revealed their COVID policy moving forward. Here’s what we know so far:
Eight Swiss cantons choose to keep COVID rules
While the finite details of each canton’s rules differ slightly, generally, masks are still compulsory in hospitals and retirement and nursing homes. Aargau and Solothurn also recommend that mask rules remain, but said that it was up to each institution to decide what they want to do. All other cantons have followed the federal advice and scrapped all measures and no canton has chosen to keep the mask mandate on public transport.
Already, hospitals in cantons with no enforced rules are starting to take matters into their own hands and imposing mask requirements without cantonal approval. According to Watson, this is to prevent a shortage of workers, as many nurses and doctors are already off sick with coronavirus.
Cantons choose to keep some COVID-19 testing
When it comes to testing, Canton Basel-Land is the only canton to keep compulsory COVID testing for healthcare workers. Employees are expected to test twice a week if they have contact with high-risk patients, regardless of vaccination status.
Other cantons and local councils are also continuing to offer regular testing in the school system and Swiss healthcare, but only as a voluntary measure. Some, like Appenzell Innerrhoden, Bern and Graubünden, have left the decision entirely up to the institutions themselves, while others (Glarus and Zug) have recommended that all systematic COVID testing be stopped.
Swiss cantons continue to update on COVID restrictions
So far, Canton Vaud, Neuchâtel, Obwalden, Lucerne and Ticino are yet to release their own COVID plans. When a decision is made, this page will be updated with the latest information.