Coronavirus: Federal Council adopts strategy for the coming months and launches consultation on fourth round of reopening steps
Bern, 12.05.2021 - At its meeting on 12 May, the Federal Council adopted a 3-phase model setting out its strategy for the coming months. At the end of May, when all those at especially high risk who wish to be vaccinated have received their jabs, the government will move from a protection phase to a stabilisation phase and initiate a fourth round of reopening steps. If the epidemiological situation allows, restaurants, for example, will be allowed to resume service indoors on Monday, 31 May. The maximum number of people allowed to attend public events will be increased. For businesses that carry out regular testing, working from home will become a recommendation rather than a requirement. The Federal Council will send out the proposals to the cantons, the relevant parliamentary committees and social partners for consultation. A decision will then be taken on 26 May.
The epidemiological situation is easing in terms of case numbers, hospitalisations and intensive care unit capacity. The public are continuing to observe the protective measures, and the reopening steps introduced on 19 April have not as yet had a negative impact on the spread of the pandemic. The Federal Council is optimistic that the situation in hospitals will continue to ease in the coming weeks and that a further round of reopening steps will be possible at the end of May. This will depend on the vaccination campaign continuing at a high pace and on all those – especially those at high risk – continuing to take measures to protect themselves until they have been vaccinated. The Federal Council is putting forward the following proposals for consultation.
Events with spectators: up to 100 people indoors and 300 people outdoors
For events with spectators or audiences, there will be a limit of 100 instead of 50 people indoors, and 300 instead of 100 people outdoors. Half of the capacity of venues may now be used instead of only a third as before. The same applies to political and religious events. Other events, such as club events or guided tours, will be allowed inside and outside with a maximum of 30 people instead of 15 as before. Dancing events remain prohibited. As the risk of transmission is higher at private events, the maximum number of people will continue to be 10 indoors and 15 outdoors.
Restaurants: indoor service as long as case numbers do not rise
The Federal Council is proposing that restaurants should be allowed to resume service indoors with precautionary measures in place. From an epidemiological perspective this step is the most fraught as it means people from different households can come into contact with each other indoors without masks. For this step to be introduced, case numbers will have to fall or remain stable. The same rules should apply as for outdoor seating areas: distancing or screens, no more than four people per table, contact details of all guests to be recorded, seating only, masks to be worn at tables when not eating or drinking. The requirement to wear a mask when sitting outdoors will be lifted. The cantons are responsible for monitoring compliance with the precautionary measures.
Amateur sport: larger groups and football matches in all leagues
A maximum of 30 people instead of 15 will be allowed to play sport together. Spectators will also be permitted at sports events, including matches. The rules for public events with 100 people indoors and 300 people outdoors apply. In order to allow amateur league football matches to resume, a group size of 50 instead of 30 people will apply for team sports in national and regional leagues. Team sport matches are only allowed to take place outdoors.
With regard to indoor sports, the following rules still apply: no more than 15 people in a room if no masks are worn. Contact sports such as judo or wrestling are only permitted indoors without masks in fixed groups of four people. The space requirement for less strenuous sporting activities carried out indoors (e.g. yoga) will be reduced from 15 to 10 square metres per person.
Cultural activities: larger groups possible
As with sport, the maximum group size for cultural activities will also be increased to 30 people. At performances and practice sessions necessary to prepare for performances, the maximum group size will be 50 – both indoors and out. The space requirement for brass bands will be reduced from 25 to 10 square metres per person. Amateur and professional choir performances will once again be allowed.
No requirement to work from home for businesses that conduct regular tests
Working from home will be a recommendation rather than a requirement for businesses that carry out regular testing. To make it even easier for businesses to carry out tests, the federal government will not only assume the cost of testing, but also of pooling. Since 18 January, employers have been required to instruct staff to work from home depending on the type of activity and where practicable. Once everyone who so wishes has been vaccinated (start of normalisation phase), the rules on working from home will be eased without further restrictions. The rules to protect people at high risk in the workplace will be extended.
Higher education institutions: more face-to face teaching possible
At higher education institutions, the 50-person limit for face-to-face teaching will be lifted. The prerequisite is a testing plan as part of the cantonal test strategy and cantonal approval. Half of the capacity may now be used instead of only a third as before. Face masks must be worn and social distancing rules still apply.
Spa facilities open
Thermal baths and spa facilities will be allowed to reopen. Activities can be carried out without masks, but while observing social distancing rules and with 15 square metres per person.
No quarantine for those already vaccinated
People who have recovered from COVID and those who have been vaccinated will be exempt from contact and travel quarantine. It can be assumed that they cannot transmit the disease. A decision will be taken on the vaccines to which these exemptions apply and for how long.
With a view to the summer holidays, the Federal Council will also adapt the government’s travel advice. A risk of infection with the coronavirus exists in all regions of the world. Before going on holiday, travellers should read the information and recommendations issued by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and, in particular, the current list of countries and regions with an increased risk of infection. Anyone entering Switzerland from one of these countries or regions must go into quarantine. Travel to countries or regions with new virus mutations is not recommended. These countries and regions are recorded on a list.
3-phase model adopted
Today, the Federal Council also adopted its strategy for the coming months. To this end, it has defined three phases until all adults who so wish have been vaccinated, and the measures to protect against COVID-19 can largely be lifted (see fact sheet). This 3-phase model was well received in the consultation. Almost all cantons agree with the model and welcome the strategy, which is why only minor adjustments have been made. The cantons are aware that the model is also associated with risks - for example, that people who are unable to be vaccinated are exposed to an increased risk in the longer term.
The first phase (protection phase) lasts until all those at especially high risk who wish to be vaccinated have received their jabs. This phase is expected to be completed by the end of May. In the second phase (stabilisation phase), the entire adult population will have access to the vaccination. Once all adults who so wish are fully vaccinated, the third phase (normalisation phase) can begin. However, the virus will continue to circulate even after all those who to be vaccinated have been.
Further round of reopening steps planned
The Federal Council envisages further rounds of reopening steps in the second and third phases. On 26 May, it will take a final decision on large-scale events with more than 1,000 people; the consultation on this proposal is currently being evaluated. The Federal Council plans to launch the consultation on the next round of reopening steps on 11 June before taking a decision on 18 June. This package will include a further easing of measures for sports, cultural and other events. In the summer, the Federal Council will also discuss medium-term planning and undertake the necessary preparatory work for the winter.
Amendments to various COVID-19 ordinances
Even before the decision on the fourth round of reopening steps, the Federal Council made various technical adjustments to COVID-19 ordinances. This is due to new scientific findings or summer activities.
- Persons who have contracted Sars-CoV-2 and have since recovered are now no longer considered to be at particular risk for six months instead of the previous three months.
- In view of the pool season, bathing establishments will be able to provide for exemptions from the mask requirement for certain parts of the outdoor area, such as lawns, in their precautionary measures plans.
- For travellers entering Switzerland from a country or area where a Sars-CoV-2 variant of concern is prevalent, exemptions from the testing and quarantine requirement for entry into Switzerland will be limited.
- Insurers are now authorised to claim back the costs of excess self-tests directly from the insured person. The costs for payment reminders will be borne by the Confederation.
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Last modification 03.11.2023
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