On 12 March 2021, the Swiss government presented its tentative plan to reduce Covid-19 restrictions from 22 March 2021.
According to the government it is currently unclear how the epidemic will develop. Reproduction rates and case numbers have begun rising again.
The reproduction rate across the country is now 1.13 (5 March 2021) and only three cantons (Jura, Schwyz, Glarus) have rates under 1, the rate below which the number of new cases goes into decline. Over the weekend 3.170 new cases were recorded in Switzerland, a number 16% higher than the same figure the weekend before. Geneva and Vaud have seen the steepest rises over the last 14 days.
On Friday the government described the situation as extremely precarious and said there are signs that this could be the start of a third wave, adding that the limit values on three out of its four indicators had been exceeded.
In other nearby nations the situation has already deteriorated. On 15 March 2021, parts of neighbouring Italy introduced increased restrictions in a bid to reduce growing spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Switzerland has made slow progress on vaccinating the public due to an international shortage of vaccine. By 15 March 2021, 4.3% of Switzerland’s population had been fully vaccinated and 12 doses per 100 people had been administered.
Given this uncertain backdrop, Switzerland’s Federal Council said it will wait until 19 March 2021 to decide whether to further ease restrictions on 22 March 2021. All going well the government will relax a range of restrictions.
Outdoor events with up to 150 spectators and indoor events with up to 50 spectators will be allowed up to a maximum of one third of venue capacity. This would include events such as at football matches or open-air concerts, cinemas, theatres and concerts. 1.5m distancing would be required and no food, drink or intervals would be allowed.
Maximum of 15 people at other events
In addition to the private events and sporting and cultural activities already permitted, other events involving up to 15 people will also be allowed. This includes, for example, guided tours in museums, meetings of club members and other entertainment and leisure events.
Private gatherings at home involving up to 10 people
The limit for indoor gatherings of friends and family will be increased from 5 people to 10. It is recommended that private gatherings be limited to members of just a few households. Private outdoor gatherings are already limited to 15 people.
Restaurant outside seating areas to reopen
Restaurants and bars will be able to reopen their outside seating areas. Customers must be seated and masks may only be removed to consume food and drink. A maximum of four people will be allowed per table and each person’s contact details must be recorded. Tables must be 1.5 metres apart or have a screen placed between them. Clubs and discos will remain closed.
Publicly accessible facilities and businesses
Publicly accessible leisure and recreation facilities will be allowed to reopen under similar conditions to shops and museums. This means that all areas of zoos and botanical gardens will be allowed to open. However, masks must be worn in indoor areas and distancing rules respected. Indoor areas of spa facilities and swimming pools will remain closed.
Sporting and cultural activities for adults involving up to 15 people
The restrictions regarding recreational sporting and cultural activities for adults will be eased for individuals or groups involving up to 15 people. When outdoors a mask must be worn or the required distance of 1.5 metres respected. Mask must be worn indoors and distancing rules respected. Exceptions will be made for activities where it is not possible to wear a mask, such as during endurance training in fitness centres, or when singing in a choir. Prior testing is recommended. Sports involving physical contact will be permitted outdoors if a mask is worn, but will still not be permitted indoors. Matches and competitions will not permitted for any sports and the recommendation that sporting and cultural activities take place outdoors will remain.
Face-to-face teaching at higher and continuing education institutions
Face-to-face teaching will once again be allowed on a limited basis in post-compulsory schooling. There may be no more than 15 people in a class and the room may not be filled beyond a third of its capacity. Face masks must be worn and social distancing rules apply.
Vaccinated nursing home residents no longer required to wear masks
Care home residents who have been vaccinated will no longer be required to wear masks.
Looser quarantine rules for businesses
If 80% of staff are tested at least once a week, the requirement to quarantine after contact with an infected person will be lifted. In addition, the requirement to quarantine after contact with an infected person will be lifted for people who have been vaccinated.
More widespread testing
From 15 March 2021, the federal government will pay for rapid tests at authorised testing centres, without the current requirement to be symptomatic. Everyone will be able to take five free self-tests a month. In addition, businesses and schools will be able to conduct pool testing free of charge.
Alert apps in Switzerland and Germany to be made interoperable
The government is working on making the German (Corona-Warn) and Swiss (SwissCovid) apps interoperable. This will mean either one will work across both Switzerland and Germany.
Switzerland’s Federal Council will make its next announcement on Friday 19 March 2021.