On 12 May 2021, Switzerland’s Federal Council announced plans for further reopening.
The epidemiological situation is easing in terms of case numbers, hospitalisations and intensive care unit capacity, said the government. The public are continuing to observe the protective measures, and the reopening steps introduced on 19 April 2021 have not led to an increase in new cases.
As a result of improving numbers, the Federal Council said it is optimistic that the situation will continue to ease in the coming weeks allowing for a further round of reopening on 31 May 2021. However, this will depend on the pace of the vaccination campaign, it added.
The number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs has fallen from an average of around 500 to around 200. Given Switzerland followed a strategy of vaccinating those most likely to end up in hospital first, it makes sense that with a quarter of the population vaccinated, pressure on hospital ICUs has declined significantly since its peak late last year.
All going well, on 31 May 2021, the numbers allowed at indoor and outdoor events will be increased, indoor restaurant dining will be allowed, larger numbers will be allowed at sporting and cultural events, more face-to-face teaching at tertiary institutions will be permitted, spas will get a green light to reopen, the requirement to work from home will shift from being required to advisable if accompanied with sufficient testing, and quarantine requirements will be loosened for those who have been vaccinated or recovered. However, it isn’t clear what will be required to prove infection and recovery, something that could be a widespread challenge given testing shortages last year and the chances of a false negative result on a PCR test. This would leave some people who have had Covid-19 without a test result to prove it. Proof of vaccination is more straight forward.
A final decision on the next round of loosening of measure will be made on 26 May 2021. In between now and then the cantons will be consulted.
On 26 May 2021, in addition to finalising this round of easing, the Federal Council will start a consultation on further easing, which it will decide on on 18 June 2021. This would include decisions on further easing of measures for sports, cultural and other events.
Alain Berset, Switzerland’s minister of health, called upon people to continue following social distancing rules and mask wearing. He described the current level of new infections as relatively high while pointing out that the current level of between 250 and 300 per 100,000 over 14 days is far above the 60 per 100,000 quarantine trigger level set less than a year ago. It’s not finished. There are no short cuts, he said. We’re at the point where many are close to being vaccinated. This is not the time to relax. We can’t vaccinate people once they’re infected. We need to keep going, said the minister.