Swiss cantons to recommend new COVID measures: What you need to know
The Conference of the Cantonal Ministers of Public Health (GDK) - a group of health ministers representing each Swiss canton - has said that it will decide on new COVID restrictions for Switzerland on October 20, 2022. Mask recommendations and mandates are currently on the table, with more severe measures being debated in the future.
COVID cases rise sharply in Switzerland
In a statement given to the Tages-Anzeiger, the GDK said that new COVID measures are necessary because of a sharp rise in cases. According to the Federal Office of Public Health, the number of new COVID cases has doubled in the last two weeks, with experts assuming that the real number is much higher as there are currently no quarantine and testing requirements in Switzerland.
According to the newspaper, COVID-related admissions to hospitals have increased at the same rate as cases. In Canton Ticino, the first hospitals are reporting that they have had to postpone non-urgent operations because of the new spike.
Swiss cantons to announce COVID measures on October 20
Since the end of federal COVID restrictions in April 2022, the task of regulating and imposing measures relating to coronavirus has been transferred from the government to individual cantons. Therefore, to avoid a “patchwork quilt” of restrictions, as was seen in late 2020, the GDK said that it would be discussing new measures on October 20 that will apply to all 26 regions.
According to GDK spokesperson Tobias Bär, "The board of the GDK will deal with the current epidemiological situation at its meeting on October 20." He said that the measures announced will be roughly in line with the official plan agreed upon by cantons for COVID spikes this winter.
Mask recommendations and mandates likely to be announced
The first measure likely to be announced, according to the Tages-Anzeiger, will be a "recommendation to the population to wear masks in public transport and indoors." The mask mandate in healthcare, old people’s and nursing homes will also probably be extended to all cantons.
If the situation is deemed to be worse than anticipated, a mask requirement in public transport will be announced, followed by a mask requirement in all indoor public spaces - although the latter is unlikely to be announced on Thursday. Other parts of the plan, such as compulsory testing, bans on events, entry restrictions and COVID certificates, are not up for discussion yet.
While the GDK does represent health ministries across all 26 cantons, it will still be up to each region’s government to decide and confirm whether to follow their recommendations. The full details of what will be (re)imposed are expected to be announced on October 20.