Coronavirus press conference: 2G COVID restrictions confirmed in Switzerland
On Friday, December 17, the Federal Council announced new coronavirus restrictions in Switzerland, setting new guidelines for working, education and entertainment. The announcement is the second tightening of COVID laws in recent weeks, amid a rise in COVID cases and hospitalisations.
New COVID restrictions announced in all Swiss cantons
In a press conference on Friday, Health Minister Alain Berset said that the extraordinary circumstances in Swiss healthcare and an increase in COVID cases throughout Switzerland made additional restrictions necessary. He said, "We have to do everything we can to prevent closings," and that action was needed immediately.
The proposals that were submitted to cantons last week have now been debated, and the new rules have been fully agreed. The restrictions - arguably the most significant tightening since last year - will apply from December 20 and will cover all cantons in Switzerland. The rules are time-limited to January 24, 2022, but may be extended if needed. Here is what expats and locals need to know:
2G rule to apply to most venues
The Federal Council announced that, from December 20, Switzerland will move to 2G. This is where the COVID certificate - used for entry to restaurants, sports, cultural and leisure facilities, and events - will only be given to those who have been vaccinated against or have recovered from COVID-19.
2G will be applied to all previous locations where a 3G certificate was needed, and a mask and seating requirement must be imposed. The previous 3G system will only remain in place for outdoor events with over 300 people.
Where a mask and seating requirement is not possible, such as in nightclubs, swimming pools, bars and intensive sport, the government says they will move to 2G+. This means all participants must be vaccinated against or recovered from COVID-19 and must also be able to produce a negative and valid, rapid or PCR COVID test.
Other venues that wish to forgo the mask and seating requirement in 2G may also choose to move to 2G+. The restrictions do not apply to those under the age of 16, and after consultation with cantons, the Federal Council announced that people whose full vaccination, booster vaccination or recovery was less than four months ago are exempt from the 2G+ obligation to test.
Family meeting restrictions imposed in Switzerland
In regard to meeting others in private, the government announced that private indoor meetings will be capped at 10 people if one or more unvaccinated people over the age of 16 are present. Children count towards the maximum number of people, but do not count as unvaccinated. If all attendees over 16 years old are vaccinated or recovered, the upper limit is set at 30 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
Return to home working
In order to reduce the number of close contacts, the Federal Council has reintroduced the mandate to work from home. All those who can work from home should return to remote working by December 20. For those who cannot work from home, the government mandates mask-wearing in rooms with more than one person present.
Masks in secondary schools
In addition to working from home, the Federal Council announced that masks will be required in some schools. The mask mandate will only extend to the Sekundarstufe II, or upper secondary schools.
In regard to distance or online learning, the council said they will not introduce it yet, as schools are about to break up for the Christmas holidays. They note that if the situation deteriorates rapidly, it may become something they would consider.
New travel restrictions announced
Along with new domestic policy, the government has also reformed entry restrictions to Switzerland. From December 20, vaccinated and recovered travellers over the age of 16 only have to produce a rapid antigen or PCR test upon arrival in Switzerland.
Unvaccinated travellers must also take a test between the fourth and seventh day after entering Switzerland. Currently, there are no plans to reintroduce quarantine on arrival rules.
Swiss government to pay for some forms of COVID test
The final change announced in Friday's press conference was a change to how testing is to be paid for.
From December 18, rapid antigen tests will be paid for by the government. These tests can be used to secure a 2G+ COVID certificate for someone who is vaccinated or recovered, or a 3G certificate for someone who isn't.
COVID restrictions to expire in January
Concluding the press conference, Health Minister Alain Berset said that Switzerland is far more prepared for the current COVID wave, mainly because of the vaccine. As it stands, the current COVID restrictions are time-limited to January 24, 2022, but may be extended if needed.