Coronavirus: Federal Council to take further, wide-ranging reopening step and to relax rules on entering Switzerland
Bern, 23.06.2021 - The measures in place to contain the coronavirus will be eased and simplified significantly from Saturday, 26 June. The requirements to work from home and to wear masks outdoors, for example, will be lifted. Furthermore, restaurants will again be allowed to seat as many people together as they wish, and large-scale events with COVID certificates will be allowed to take place without restrictions on capacity or the number of people present. This reopening step therefore goes further than proposed in the consultation. At its meeting on 23 June, the Federal Council also decided to relax rules on entering the country. The health-related measures at the border will now focus on those arriving from countries with variants of the virus that give rise to concern.
The reopening steps introduced on 19 April and 31 May have not had a negative impact on the development of the COVID-19 epidemic in Switzerland. Case numbers and hospital admissions due to COVID-19 are continuing to fall sharply. In addition, around half of the adult population will be fully vaccinated by the end of the month. However, caution is still warranted. Switzerland has been in a stabilisation phase since the beginning of June. Not all those who wish to be vaccinated have received their jabs yet. The Federal Council is continuing to monitor the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant closely.
In view of these positive developments in the epidemiological situation, the progress being made with the rollout of the vaccines and the responses to the consultation received from the cantons, social partners and other participants, the Federal Council has decided to take a reopening step that is more wide ranging than proposed in the consultation. Rules will be harmonised and simplified, and the COVID-19 Special Situation Ordinance will be broadly revised.
Reopening step more wide ranging than planned
The fifth reopening step extends beyond the proposals in the consultation paper in the following main areas:
- Requirement to work from home downgraded to a recommendation
- No limit on the number of people per table at restaurants
- No restrictions on capacity or the number of people and no requirement to wear masks at large-scale events with a COVID certificate requirement
- No requirement to wear masks or keep a distance during cultural and sporting activities, and no distinction between professionals and amateurs
- No restrictions on face-to-face teaching at higher education and continuing education institutions
Requirement to wear masks outdoors lifted
The requirement to wear masks in outdoor areas of publicly accessible venues, leisure facilities and restaurant terraces will be lifted. On public transport, outdoor spaces are defined as any areas with large openings on at least two sides, such as railway platforms (including those underground), bus stops, underpasses and overpasses, or halls and shopping arcades. Indoor spaces are enclosed underground station complexes (such as the underground area at Zurich main station) including the underground access and shopping areas in basements and indoor waiting rooms.
The recommendations issued by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) remain in place: masks should be worn where it is not possible to maintain a distance of 1.5m. Masks must still be worn indoors as it is not possible to check whether or not someone has been vaccinated or has recovered from COVID-19.Requirement to wear masks at work and in upper secondary level schools lifted
The general requirement to wear masks in the workplace will also be lifted. Employers still have a duty to ensure that staff are protected, but are free to decide where and when masks should be worn. The government is also lifting the requirement for masks to be worn in schools at upper secondary level. The cantons will again assume responsibility for setting rules covering baccalaureate, specialised and vocational schools.
Requirement to work from home downgraded to a recommendation
The requirement to work from home will now become a recommendation, and the requirement to conduct regular workplace testing is to be lifted.
No restrictions on face-to-face teaching
Restrictions on class sizes for face-to-face teaching at professional education, continuing education and higher education institutions will be lifted, and there will be no requirement to conduct regular testing.
Full use can be made of available capacity
Shops, leisure and sporting facilities will be able to make full use of their available capacity. Water parks may also reopen. However, a restriction of two-thirds’ capacity will apply to events and venues where no COVID certificate is required.
Restaurants: no limit on group size per table
The limit on the number of people allowed to sit at a table at restaurants will be lifted. Guests must still remain seated indoors and the distance between guest groups must still be respected. Contact details must still be recorded, but only for one person per group. Masks must still be worn, apart from when seated. The limit on the size of guest groups outdoors is to be lifted and guests will no longer have to be seated. The distance between guest groups must still be respected. Contact details no longer need to be recorded for guests outdoors.
Clubs and discos allowed to reopen
Clubs and discos will be allowed to reopen provided access is limited to people with a valid COVID certificate. The proposals set out in the consultation paper to limit attendance to 250 people and require the recording of contact details have been dropped. As at all venues where COVID certificates are required, there will be no requirement to wear masks.Events with a certificate: no masks, no restrictions
There will be no restrictions on events at which access is limited to people with a COVID certificate, including large-scale events. Events for over 10,000 people may go ahead from 26 June and the venue’s full capacity may be used. The protection plan must however set out how access is to be limited to people with a COVID certificate. Cantonal authorisation is required for events for over 1000 people.
Events without a COVID certificate requirement
The rule for events without a COVID certificate requirement are as follows:
- If the public are seated, up to 1000 people may attend – indoors or outdoors.
- If people are standing or moving around, up to 250 people may attend indoors, and up to 500 outdoors.
- Up to two-thirds of the venue’s capacity may be used – indoors or outdoors.
- Indoors: masks must be worn in areas where food and drink are served, and food and drink may only be consumed in the designated areas; contact details must be recorded if seated.
- Outdoors: no requirement to wear masks.
- Events and concerts involving dancing are not allowed.
Private events: 30 people indoors, 50 outdoors
The limits regarding private events continue to apply, i.e. no more than 30 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.Trade fairs: no capacity restrictions
The ban on trade fairs for fewer than 1000 people indoors is to be lifted. Capacity restrictions for trade fairs will also be lifted regardless of the number of visitors or the restriction to people with a COVID certificate. At trade fairs without a COVID certificate requirement, masks must be worn indoors and food and drink may only be consumed in the designated areas.
Sporting and cultural activities: no masks required
There are to be no restrictions for people carrying out sporting or cultural activities outdoors. However, contact details must be recorded for indoor activities. Requirements to wear masks and keep a distance will be lifted, as will capacity restrictions.
Duration of vaccine effectiveness to be extended to 12 months
The Federal Council is extending the duration of vaccine effectiveness for mRNA vaccines approved for use in Switzerland for those fully vaccinated to 12 months. The decision is based on the recommendation made by the Federal Commission for Vaccination. People who have been vaccinated are therefore now exempt from contact and travel quarantine for a period of 12 months. In line with the requirements for the EU Digital COVID Certificate, people who have recovered from COVID-19 are exempt from quarantine for a period of 6 months. The validity of rapid antigen tests is also being extended from 24 to 48 hours.
Self-tests also available at drugstores and in shops
Approved self-tests may now also be sold at drugstores and in shops. The packs of five self-tests per person per month funded by the Confederation will continue to be available in pharmacies, but only for people who have not been vaccinated or who have not had COVID-19. Provision will be made in the COVID-19 Ordinance 3 for the reimbursement of the cost of tests taken prior to camps and on access to events.
Restrictions on entering Switzerland to be relaxed
The Federal Council has also decided to relax the requirements for entering Switzerland, as it proposed in the consultation. Persons entering from the Schengen area will no longer be required to quarantine. The requirement to be tested will now apply only to persons arriving by plane who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered from COVID-19. Contact details will still be required when arriving by plane. In addition, Switzerland is easing the existing entry restrictions for persons arriving from third countries who can prove they have been vaccinated. The list of countries issued by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) has been amended accordingly. It is now once again possible for third-country citizens travelling from countries such as the USA, Albania or Serbia to enter Switzerland.
Entry from a country with a variant of the virus of concern
The current list of high-risk countries issued by the Federal Office of Public Health is to be revised and will only contain countries or regions where virus variants of concern to Switzerland are in circulation. Persons who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from the disease will be permitted to enter Switzerland from these countries or regions without having to be tested or to quarantine as long as it is certain that the vaccination offers good protection. Those who have neither been vaccinated nor have recovered must present a negative PCR test or rapid antigen test and go into quarantine on entry.
In practice, this means that persons who have been vaccinated or who have recovered do not have to produce a negative test even when travelling from countries where the Delta variant is widespread (such as India or the United Kingdom) and do not have to quarantine on entry. The vaccines used in Switzerland are only slightly less effective against the Delta variant and thus still offer a very high level of protection.
International compatibility of Swiss COVID certificate
As a Schengen extension, the Federal Council also took steps today to adopt two EU regulations on the EU Digital COVID Certificate. The process to have the Swiss certificate recognised by the EU has been launched. During the six-week transition phase commencing 1 July, it is likely that other forms of proof will also be accepted in the EU/EFTA area. It is therefore important to check the specific entry requirements prior to travel.
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Last modification 31.05.2023
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