New COVID restrictions announced in Switzerland
The Federal Council has announced new coronavirus restrictions for all cantons of Switzerland. The council said that, amid a dramatic rise in COVID hospitalisations and the emergence of the Omicron variant, more rules had to be applied to curb the spread. Here is what locals and expats need to know.
New coronavirus restrictions in Switzerland to combat COVID
As of December 6, new COVID restrictions will be applied to workplaces and businesses throughout Switzerland. The Federal Council submitted plans to the cantons on Tuesday, and they have agreed on a new strategy to combat the rise in COVID-19 hospitalisations. This will mean more restrictions, which will be applied nationally, instead of by canton.
Health Minister Alain Berset emphasised there are currently no plans to close or cap the capacity of events, but said other restrictions must be on the table in the future. He said in the press conference on Friday that Switzerland had to come together and "face the reality of the situation."
The laws announced will be time-limited to late January 2022, but may be extended beyond that point if required.
COVID certificate required in all indoor events in Switzerland
The new rules will place extra restrictions on activities and social events. From December 6, all public events held indoors, regardless of their size, will have to use the COVID certificate in order for patrons to gain entry. The exemption for public events under 30 people has been scrapped.
For private events such as family gatherings, for any occasion with 11 people or more, it is encouraged to use the COVID certificate. For outdoor events, the certificate requirement limit will be lowered from 1.000 people to 300 people or more.
Extended mask requirement for shops and businesses
Alongside the certificate requirement, the government has announced that the mask mandate will be extended to include all areas indoors where a COVID certificate is required, with the exception of private meetings.
Private businesses like restaurants, bars, discos, facilities open to the public and facilities used for culture, entertainment, leisure and sport can use a 2G system of restrictions. This is where a COVID certificate is only valid for those who are vaccinated against or have recovered from COVID-19.
If this rule is in place, there is no mask or seating requirement. This will require a change in the Swiss COVID app, which will be available from December 13.
The Federal Council said that, for businesses that do not implement 2G, patrons will be required to wear a mask when not seated at a restaurant, and must be seated if consuming food and drink. Sporting and cultural venues must also take down the contact details of those attending.
New COVID rules for workplaces and certificates
When it comes to workplaces, the Federal Council has mandated that all employees must wear a mask in indoor areas where more than one person is present. In addition, a work from home recommendation has been put in place.
In regard to regular testing in the school system, the Federal Council noted some cantons did not want to continue the current system and it will therefore be scrapped. However, Berset said cantons had the right to reimpose testing if they see fit.
Additionally, a new set of restrictions will apply to COVID certificates based on testing. Instead of moving to full 2G (certificates based solely on vaccination and recovery from COVID), certificates based on rapid antigen tests will only be valid for 24 hours instead of 48.
Travel quarantine list in Switzerland scrapped
Concluding the conference, the Federal Council said the travel quarantine list for countries is to be scrapped, as Omicron has already found its way to Switzerland. Instead, from December 4, all arrivals over the age of 16 must present a valid PCR test upon arrival in Switzerland, as well as a PCR or rapid antigen test after that, between four and seven days after arriving.
The only exception for these travel rules is for border communities in neighbouring nations. There are currently no plans to bring back free tests.