On 24 February 2021, Switzerland’s Federal Council confirmed its earlier plan to allow shops, museums, library reading rooms, outdoor sports and leisure facilities, zoos and botanical gardens to reopen on 1 March 2021.
In addition, outdoor events involving family and friends and sports and cultural activities involving up to 15 people will also be permitted from this date.
From 1 March 2021, young people up to the age of 20 (born in 2001 or earlier) will be able to take part in most sporting and cultural activities without restriction. The Federal Council is raising the age limit at which restrictions on sports and cultural activities apply from 16 to 20. For this age group, sports competitions and concerts will again be permitted, but without spectators or an audience. Children’s and youth choirs will be allowed to sing again and social facilities for children and teenagers, such as youth clubs, will also reopen. A summary of the changes can be viewed here.
The Federal Council said that it is aiming to achieve a gradual normalisation of social and economic life, even though the epidemiological situation remains precarious. The authorities are particularly concerned about more infectious variants of the virus that are now circulating in Switzerland.
The initial reopening phase from 1 March 2021 is focused on activities that allow people to wear masks and maintain social distancing, and that only involve small numbers of people or meeting outdoors.
In view of the precarious epidemiological situation, the Federal Council decided not to open outdoor areas at restaurants from 1 March 2021, despite a number of cantons being in favour of doing so.
In addition to the risk of infection, the Federal Council has also taken social and economic factors into consideration.
The next stage of reopening is scheduled for 22 March 2021. Consultations with the cantons will begin on 12 March and the Federal Council will take a decision on 19 March 2021. Easing to be considered includes cultural and sporting events with a limited number of spectators, changes to the requirement to work from home, indoor sports, and the opening of outdoor areas of restaurants.
The Federal Council has set epidemiological targets that must be achieved before easing restrictions further. These include a positivity rate below 5%, fewer than 250 intensive care unit beds occupied by Covid-19 patients, and an average reproduction rate over the previous 7-day period below 1. In addition, the 14-day per capita infection rate on 17 March 2021 must be no higher than it was on 1 March 2021.
If the epidemiological situation improves beyond these targets, the Federal Council will also look at reopening indoor areas in restaurants, allowing other indoor activities and reintroducing face-to-face teaching at universities.