On 19 March 2021, the Federal Council decided to relax restrictions regarding indoor gatherings of family and friends from five to a maximum of ten people.
However, faced with rising case numbers, the risk of an uncontrolled increase in cases is currently too great to allow any further measures to be eased, said the government. In addition, too few people have been vaccinated to prevent a sharp rise in hospital admissions.
The epidemiological situation began to deteriorate at the end of February 2021 and continues to worsen. At the current rate the number of cases will double every three to four weeks.
Three of the four indicator values set by the Federal Council for the second phase of reopening have been exceeded for several days now. The 14-day case number has risen to over 200 per 100,000 inhabitants, the positivity rate is over 5%, and the reproductive number is significantly higher than 1 at 1.14. Only the occupancy rate for intensive care beds with Covid-19 patients is below the defined indicator value.
No further easing of measures
In the current epidemiological situation, the Federal Council said that it does not believe that Switzerland should proceed with the second phase of reopening.
There were earlier discussions about loosening restrictions related to restaurants, theatres and other cultural venues and events on 22 March 2021. However, these are all on hold for the time being.
Case numbers are rising in all neighbouring countries despite significantly stricter measure in some of them.
New variants may be more deadly
There are also indications that the new virus variants are not only more infectious, but also more deadly. The new variants now account for over 80% of Swiss infections.
Private gatherings to move from a limit of five to ten people
With Easter approaching, the Federal Council said it will allow indoor gatherings of family and friends involving up to ten people instead of five from 22 March. Children are included in that number. The public are nevertheless encouraged to exercise caution and limit gatherings to members of only a few households. Before going to private gatherings they should also take up the opportunity to take a free test.
Decision against a majority of cantons
Discussion with the cantons revealed that a clear majority of the cantons would welcome a gradual reopening with accompanying measures. Almost all called for a relaxation of the ban on face-to-face teaching at higher education and continuing education institutions. All supported the reopening of restaurant outdoor seating areas from 22 March 2021, while half of the cantons also called for indoor areas to reopen if the situation allows. Some also expressed a desire for greater caution before proceeding with further reopening steps.
The Federal Council will decide on the next steps to take on 14 April 2021. The package of measures set out in last week’s consultation will form the basis of the next phase of reopening.