Mask mandate on Swiss public transport hotly debated as compliance slumps

Mask mandate on Swiss public transport hotly debated as compliance slumps

The public transport operator for Canton Bern, Bernmobil, has said that it does not understand why masks remain mandatory on public transport but not in shops and other businesses. A survey by 20 minuten has found that compliance with mask rules has declined significantly over the last week.

Compliance with mask mandates declining in Switzerland

The mask mandate on public transport and in hospitals is part of the few COVID restrictions that remain in place in Switzerland, after the major relaxations announced on February 16. Now, a survey by 20 minuten has indicated that many are not following the rules on trains, trams and buses.

Bernmobil confirmed that during evenings and weekends, there is a significant drop in the number of people wearing masks, although rush-hour traffic is still widely compliant. A spokesperson for Bernmobil, Rolf Meyer, said, “When you don't have to wear a mask when you go out, but you do before and after using public transport," keeping compliance high remains a challenge.

Masks on Swiss public transport hotly debated

Meyer said that the company doesn’t “understand why public transport was exempted from the easing, especially since passenger numbers are still well below the numbers seen before the COVID pandemic." In their view, lifting the mask requirement would have been appropriate for public transport, as the conditions in their vehicles are the same as in shops, clubs, bars and when working.

As well as those not following the mask rules, Central President of the Union of Transport Workers, Ralph Kessler, said that employees are having to mediate between angry passengers more frequently: “Since the mask requirement was lifted, we have seen more people who do not wear the mask at all or wear it incorrectly."

However, he clarified that he thought continuing the mask mandate was the right thing to do, as it protects employees of the railways. He said that the mandate makes sense for public transport as people remain in close contact for far longer on long-distance trains than in shops and bars.

Sociology professor Katja Rost made the case for a “uniform” rule on masks in order to cause less confusion. "People have to relearn, all of a sudden, old social norms and associated etiquette," she noted, arguing that many people simply forget to wear masks as it is no longer the norm. She said that the decision to keep masks in trains but not in other businesses was a good “Swiss” compromise between personal freedom and safety.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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