On 18 October 2020, after an extraordinary meeting, Switzerland’s Federal Council announced masks would become mandatory across all of Switzerland. In addition, certain gatherings of more than 15 people are to be banned and employers are required to follow recommendations for staff to work from home.
Since 19 June 2020, the governments of Switzerland’s cantons have played the lead role in combating the COVID-19 epidemic. Today, the federal government decided to step back in after discussions with the cantons.
The rapid rise in coronavirus cases in the last few days is a cause for great concern, said the Federal Council. The number of cases is now rising across all age groups and across all cantons and more people being admitted to hospital.
The latest figure, reported on Friday 16 October 2020, showed 3,105 new cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection over 24 hours. At last count there were 567 Covid-19 patients in hospitals across Switzerland, according to FOPH figures published by RTS. During the first wave, hospitalised cases rose from a similar level to a peak of 2,388 in a little over two weeks.
The head of the hospital in Sion in Valais told RTS today that he is concerned by the steep rise in Covid-19 patients. He said the rise now is much steeper than it was in March. If it continues at this rate the hospital could struggle to cope in 10 or 15 days.
Masks now mandatory across the whole of Switzerland
Masks have been compulsory for everyone over 12 on public transport since 6 July 2020. From 19 October 2020, this rule will be extended to railway stations, including platforms, airports and other publicly accessible public transport areas.
In addition, masks will be compulsory in publicly accessible indoor spaces including all shops, shopping centres, banks, post offices, museums, libraries, cinemas, theatres, concert venues, indoor areas of zoos and botanical gardens, restaurants, bars, discos, casinos, hotels (with the exception of guests’ rooms), entrance areas and changing rooms in swimming pools, sports facilities and gyms, doctor’s surgeries, hospitals and places of worship, advise and neighbourhood centres and publicly accessible areas of administrative buildings.
Face masks must also be worn in schools, higher education establishments, child-care facilities and training areas of sport and fitness centres if the organisation includes this requirement in its Covid-19 protection plan, something that could vary from school to school.
Gatherings of more than 15 not permitted in public
Spontaneous gatherings of more than 15 persons are not permitted in public spaces such as town squares, streets, paths and parks. Organised outdoor events, such as political and civil society demonstrations, are permitted provided precautionary measures are observed. The aim of this measure is to prevent private events moving outdoors.
In restaurants, bars and clubs, food and drink may only be consumed while seated, both indoors and out.
Family gatherings and private events
Private gatherings should be avoided. At private events that cannot be avoided, food and drink may only be consumed while seated if there are more than 15 people present. Anyone standing up must wear a mask. In addition, hygiene rules must be observed at all times and contact details must be recorded. For private events of more than 100 people there must be a set of precautionary measures. Such events may only be held in publicly accessible venues.
Working from home now recommended
From Monday, employers are required to follow the recommendation by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) for employees to work from home.
Despite the restrictions, the Federal Council said that it hopes the economy can continue to function and people can live their lives with as little disruption as possible.