From July 6, all passengers on Swiss public transport will have to wear face masks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus. Keystone / Salvatore Di NolfiJuly 8, 2020 – 11:18
- From July 6, passengers on Swiss public transport have to wear face masks after an increase in the number of new cases and demands from cantons. Certain cantons like Vaud and Jura require customers to wear face masks in shops.
- Also from July 6, anyone entering Switzerland from any of the 29 “high risk” countries, which include the US, has to undergo a ten-day quarantine.
- The Covid-19 tracing app SwissCovid has crossed the one million downloads threshold.
- Since June 22, public and private events of up to 1,000 people have been permitted on condition that contact tracing is guaranteed. Larger events are still banned.The recommended safe distance between people was reduced from two metres to 1.5 metres.
- Tests are now free for residents; the SwissCovid contact tracing app became available on June 25; as of June 30, about 920,000 people had downloaded it.
- Travel is now possible between Switzerland and the European Union, EFTA countries and the United Kingdom. It is likely to be expanded to a further 18 “safe” countries from July 20.
What’s the current situation in Switzerland?
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Over 32,000 people have tested positive to the virus and almost 2,000 have died in Switzerland, which has a population of 8.5 million. Cantons Ticino, Vaud, Geneva and Valais have been the hardest-hit parts of the country – they were hotspots early in the pandemic.
The lockdown and strict restrictions had a dramatic impact, flattening the curve and allowing the authorities to ease measures step by step. From its March peak, the number of new cases fell to around a dozen in early June, alongside a drop in hospital cases and deaths.
But since mid-June the number of new cases has begun to slowly creep up in different parts of the country. For example, two schools were closed in cantons Vaud and Jura after teachers were tested positive. And hundreds of people were quarantined in Zurich and Olten after attending nightclubs visited by a number of individuals who were infected.
Federal health office director Pascal Strupler has described the recent increase as “disturbing”. He urges people to maintain social distancing and good hygiene despite the easing of lockdown measures.
Since the easing of the lockdown, public transport has returned to the standard timetable. However, the number of passengers remains below normal.
On July 1, the government announced that from July 6 passengers on Swiss public transport will have to wear face masks. The mask requirement applies to everyone aged 12 or older. It applies in trains, trams and buses, mountain railways, cable cars and on ships. The Swiss Federal Railways said conductors will ask anyone not wearing a mask to leave the train and anyone refusing will be fined.
With thousands of tests being carried out per day, Switzerland has one of the highest per-capita rates of testing in the world. The government adopted an extended testing strategy along with a contact-tracing concept as it moved to ease social distancing measures.
From June 25, Swiss residents have also been able to download the SwissCovid smartphone app, a contact-tracing system.
While officials were initially sceptical of the benefits of face masks, the armed forces said later that they would be buying up to 100 million masks, which are to be sold to retailers at purchasing price, to address shortages. The government has a budget of up to CHF400 million ($412 million) to provide different types of masks. It remains the responsibility of hospitals, companies and private households to ensure own stocks.
The government has ended its recommendation that people work from home wherever possible. It will be up to employers to decide and put the necessary safety measures in place.
Finance Minister Ueli Maurer warned that the shutdown and bailout packages could result in a deficit of up to CHF40 billion this year. Various research institutes and banks are predicting a recession for 2020, followed by a recovery in 2021 – if the virus situation is resolved in the coming months.
In total, the government has set aside more than CHF65 billion to support the economy, as a large part of economic activity in the country came to a temporary standstill. On April 3, it announced it made available CHF40 billion in emergency loans for struggling companies. It has since presented a plan to offer additional loans totalling up to CHF154 million for start-up companies. Parliament has voted to approve the multi-billion franc bailout package.
The promised economic package provides relief for companies with liquidity problems to obtain transitional bank loans. Companies hit by the crisis will be able to defer payment of social insurance contributions temporarily and without interest. These measures also apply to self-employed persons whose turnover has fallen.
The government is also throwing a lifeline to businesses threatened by bankruptcy. Firms can delay declaring their financial difficulties to the courts, with smaller companies being given at least a three-month grace period to pay off their debts.
The pandemic has taken a greater toll on Swiss women than men when it came to balancing professional and personal responsibilities.
There is also money to cover the imposition of short-time work at firms while other funds have been set aside for hardship loans and to support specific sectors such as event management. Partial unemployment claims have increased sharply due to the pandemic and are expected to continue to rise. The period allowed for placing employees on short-time work will be raised from 12 months to 18 months from September 1.
On May 20, the government agreed an additional CHF14.2 billion in financing for unemployment insurance, announcing it would begin easing out extraordinary measures granting unemployment and short-term work benefits to more people. Exceptional claims to short-term work for self-employed and people in similar situations, as well as for apprentices, lapsed at the end of May. Short-term work claims have to be registered in advance again.
Following concerns voiced by the sports sector, the government announced it was allocating CHF500 million for sports leagues, associations and organisations in the country. Among the biggest beneficiaries are the professional football and hockey leagues, which could receive as much as CHF350 million to shore up the 2020-2021 season.
Switzerland announced a CHF400 million aid package to developing countries. Half of the funds would go to the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross as an interest-free loan, the foreign ministry said. Funds would also be provided to the International Monetary Fund and other international organisations helping developing countries during the crisis.
- A plane prepares for its return flight from Dübendorf Airport to Zurich Airport on June 15, 2020 (Keystone/Georgios Kefalas) Keystone / Ennio Leanza
- Most pools opened on June 8. (KEYSTONE/Anthony Anex) Keystone / Anthony Anex
- Lighting up Grossmünster: A light installation by Swiss artist Gerry Hofstetter illustrates the joy of the Reformed Church in canton Zurich, which was allowed to restart services at Pentecost on May 30. (Keystone/Alexandra Wey) Keystone / Alexandra Wey
- Street art in Geneva on May 25, 2020 (Stephan Torre / Keystone) Stephan Torre / Keystone
- A model of Locarno’s Piazza Grande during the annual film festival, which has been cancelled due to Covid-19. However, the ‘Swissminiatur’ park in Ticino is open again. May 24, 2020 (Alessandro Crinari/Keystone) Alessandro Crinari/Keystone
- Disinfectant was made available for people attending the first farmers’ market of the year in St Gallen, in eastern Switzerland, May 15, 2020. (KEYSTONE/Gian Ehrenzeller) Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller
- A protective face mask on the road in Lausanne on May 11. (Keystone/Leandre Duggan) Keystone / Leandre Duggan
- A teacher wears a protective face mask at a primary school in Morges, western Switzerland, on May 11. Swiss primary and secondary schools re-opened with half of the students during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone). Laurent Gillieron/Keystone
- Surprise bouquets were delivered to an old people’s home in Lucerne for Mother’s Day on May 8, 2020. (Keystone / Urs Flüeler) Keystone / Urs Flueeler
- Preparations are in full swing for shops and restaurants that are reopening next Monday, May 11. This includes indicators on the pavement to help customers keep their distance from one another. (Keystone / Urs Flüeler) Keystone / Urs Flueeler
- Preparations on May 5 for the re-opening of department stores and restaurants on May 11. Classroom teaching at primary and lower secondary schools will again be permitted. Shops, markets, museums, libraries and restaurants will be able to re-open under strict compliance with precautionary measures. (Keystone/Alexandra Wey) Keystone / Alexandra Wey
- On May 4, the day the Swiss parliament re-opened, people demonstrating in support of #4m2, calling for a “local and sustainable humanist revival” (Keystone/Laurent Gillieron) Keystone / Laurent Gillieron
- Parliamentarian Sandra Sollberger on the first day of parliament’s extraordinary session on the coronavirus crisis in an exhibition hall at the Bernexpo in Bern, May 4, 2020. In order for parliament to comply with government social distancing and hygiene rules, the extraordinary session is taking place at the Bernexpo convention centre rather than at the Federal Palace. (Keystone/Alessandro della Valle) Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle
- For Labour Day they couldn’t take to the streets, but they could still make a lot of noise. Zurich on May 1, 2020. (Keystone / Alexandra Wey) Keystone / Alexandra Wey
- Observing social distancing regulations, the Zug cantonal parliament meets in a school gym, April 30. (Keystone/Urs Flüeler) Keystone / Urs Flueeler
- Teacher Christophe Blanc gives an economics lesson in front of pictures of his students at the private school “Ecole Ardevaz” on April 29, 2020. (Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott) Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott
- Four people keeping their distance while walking past rapeseed fields in Daillens near Lausanne on April 26, 2020 (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone). Laurent Gillieron/Keystone
- A symbolic demonstration in Zurich during the coronavirus crisis on the occasion of the international climate strike, April 24, 2020. (Keystone/Alexandra Wey). Keystone / Alexandra Wey
- Ischa, the clown from circus Mugg, performs for residents of a retirement home in Canton Glarus during the coronavirus crisis. April 22, 2020. (Keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller) Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller
- Every evening at 7pm, David Reimann of the Alphorn Association Kriens-Pilatus blows his alphorn on his balcony as a sign of gratitude for all the people working to fight the coronavirus pandemic. April 21, 2020. (Keystone/Urs Flüeler) Keystone / Urs Flueeler
- Normally a highlight of the Zurich event calendar, the Sechseläuten parade and festivities were cancelled this year. Pictured is Sechseläutenplatz on April 20. (Petra Orosz/Keystone) Petra Orosz/Keystone
- Beatrice Panero, dancer and permanent member of the dance company of Konzert Theater Bern, trains in her apartment in Boll on Saturday, April 18, 2020. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone) Peter Klaunzer/Keystone
- Baggage trolleys at Zurich airport on April 17 stand unused, as the number of flights taking off has dwindled to a bare minimum. (Keystone/Ennio Leanza) Keystone / Ennio Leanza
- Garden centres are preparing to reopen on April 27, 2020, after the gradual relaxation of anti-virus restrictions, which was presented on April 16. (Keystone / Ennio Leanza) Keystone / Ennio Leanza
- People fishing on Lake Brienz (Brienzersee) during the coronavirus pandemic on April 12, 2020. (KEYSTONE/Anthony Anex) Anthony Anex/Keystone
- The northern entrance to the Gotthard tunnel. Authorities urged Swiss residents not to travel to holiday homes in the south during the Easter break. (Keystone / Urs Flüeler) Keystone / Urs Flueeler
- Lonely lecture: Physicist Thomas Ihn gives an online class at the Swiss Federal Technology Institute ETH Zurich on April 8. (Keystone /Alexandra Wey). Keystone / Alexandra Wey
- A woman from Zug makes protective face masks out of pieces of material on April 6, 2020 (KEYSTONE/Alexandra Wey). Alexandra Wey/Keystone
- A couple meets at the border between the German city of Constance and Kreuzlingen in Switzerland on Sunday, April 5, 2020. After people met at the first fence installed at the border and failed to comply with social distancing measures imposed, a second border fence was installed. (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone) Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller
- Monica is on the phone through a window with her 88-year-old mother Giuseppina, on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, at the Serena nursing home in Lugano. They are avoiding direct contact due to the coronavirus. [KEYSTONE/Ti-Press/Davide Agosta] Keystone / Davide Agosta
- A man is registered for receiving a test at the new coronavirus drive-through testing facility in the capital, Bern on April 2. (Keystone / Peter Klaunzer) Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
- The Meier nursery near Zurich disposes of and composts the cultivated flowers and seedlings that could not be sold during the coronavirus pandemic on March 31. (Keystone/Ennio Leanza) Keystone / Ennio Leanza
- A playground at a school in Eggerstanden in northeastern Appenzell on March 30, which has been closed as a result of the virus. (Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller) Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller
- A woman wearing protective face mask pulls a trolley with food shopping in an empty commercial street during the state of emergency of the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Saturday, March 28, 2020. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone) Laurent Gillieron/Keystone
- People participate from their balconys in the first “balcony party” organized by Swiss radio station Couleur 3, Geneva, Saturday March 28, 2020. (Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi) Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi
- Using a ‘Milchtrichter’ or dairy funnel, Pastor Christoph Sigrist sends his blessing to the residents of Zurich from one of the two towers of the city’s Grossmünster church, March 27, 2020. (Keystone/Ennio Leanza) Keystone / Ennio Leanza
- Food distribution at the Stiftung Suchthilfe charity in St. Gallen, 26 March 2020. Its street kitchen is closed, but food and groceries are distributed to those in need from a safe distance. (KEYSTONE/Gian Ehrenzeller) Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller
- An extended emergency department in the Perioperative Anaesthesia Holding Area at Basel Country Canton Hospital (KSBL) in Binningen, on Thursday 26 March 2020 (KEYSTONE/Georgios Kefalas) Keystone / Georgios Kefalas
- The Matterhorn in Zermatt, canton Valais, has been illuminated by Swiss light artist Gerry Hofstetter. The illumination is taking place every day between sunset and 11 pm from March 24 to April 19, 2020, as a sign of hope and solidarity during the corona crisis (Frank Schwarzbach / Zermatt Tourism) Frank Schwarzbach / Zermatt Tourism
- The statue of Freddie Mercury in Montreux wearing a surgical mask and a sign saying “stay home” on March 23. (Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott) Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott
- A soldier during health and medical exercises conducted on March 21, before deployment at public hospitals. (Jean-Christophe Bott / Keystone) Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott
- “We have to take this incredibly seriously.” With these words, Roger Federer on Instagram called on the population to fight the coronavirus together. Federal Councillor Alain Berset had launched a social media challenge in the fight against corona. March 21, 2020. (Keystone/Peter Klaunzer) Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
- The motorway service areas are now also deserted. A playground on the Gotthard route on March 21, 2020. (Keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller) Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller
- The Federal Terrace in Bern next to parliament has been closed to prevent people from gathering there amid the coronavirus epidemic, March 20, 2020. (Keystone/Peter Klaunzer) Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
- Many people across Switzerland, confined or working at home because of the coronavirus, came out onto balconies and windows at 12.30pm on March 20 , clapping and expressing their thanks and solidarity with the country’s health workers. (Keystone / Alexandra Wey) Keystone / Alexandra Wey
- A poster of the cancelled “Zermatt Unplugged music festival” in front of the Matterhorn near the ski resort, in Zermatt, March 18, 2020. The Swiss authorities proclaimed on 16 March a state of emergency in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus and (Covid-19) All entertainment is banned. (Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott) Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott
- Due to the quickly spreading coronavirus in Switzerland, schools close thoughout the country with short notice on March 16 2020. (Keystone/Urs Flüeler) Keystone/Urs Flüeler
- A civil protection officer tests a man for possible fever at the entrance of the Moncucco hospital in Lugano, March 17, 2020. (Keystone/Alessandro Crinari) Keystone/Alessandro Crinari
- Lockdown. Restaurants closed at Zurich airport, Switzerland, on March 17, 2020. The Federal Council has announced that all shops, markets, restaurants, bars as well as entertainment and recreational facilities must close due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Keystone / Alexandra Wey) Keystone / Alexandra Wey
- Sihlcity shopping centre in Zurich is empty on March 17 after the government’s decision on a lockdown. Restaurants, bars, clubs and many shops will remain closed for at least a month. (KEYSTONE/Ennio Leanza) Ennio Leanza/Keystone
- An empty classroom in canton Nidwalden, central Switzerland, on March 16. (KEYSTONE/Urs Flüeler) Urs Flueeler
- A woman wearing a mask at Zurich Airport on March 14. (KEYSTONE/Ennio Leanza) Keystone / Ennio Leanza
- A man wears a protection mask in the church of Sant’Antonio Abate in Lugano, near the Italian border, on March 5. (KEYSTONE/Ti-Press/Alessandro Crinari) Keystone / Alessandro Crinari
- A view from the coronavirus isolation ward at Lucerne hospital on March 5. (KEYSTONE/Urs Flüeler) Keystone / Urs Flueeler
- Children at a school in the village of Stabio, near the Italian border, were given information material on the virus on March 4, (KEYSTONE/Ti-Press/Alessandro Crinari) Keystone / Alessandro Crinari
- The number of foreign tourists, especially from China, has dropped significantly since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Seen here is a usually busy street in the city of Lucerne on March 4. (KEYSTONE/Urs Flüeler) Keystone / Urs Flueeler
- Carnival goers on March 3 swap their carnival masks for protection masks at the market place in Basel after the authorities had cancelled gatherings. (KEYSTONE/Georgios Kefalas) Keystone / Georgios Kefalas
- Magdalena Martullo-Blocher, a parliamentarian from the Swiss People’s Party, was reprimanded for defying a ban on masks in the House of Representatives on March 2. (KEYSTONE/Alessandro della Valle) Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle
- Home Affairs Minister Alain Berset disinfects his hands at the spring session of parliament in Bern on March 2. (KEYSTONE/Alessandro della Valle) Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle
- Some groups, like this one dressed as virus on March 2, defied a ban on carnival gatherings in the streets of Basel. (KEYSTONE/Georgios Kefalas) Keystone / Georgios Kefalas
- The 90th Geneva International Motor Show, pictured on February 28, was cancelled. (KEYSTONE/Salvatore di Nolfi) Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi
- A crowdless ice hockey match between HC Ambri-Piotta and HC Davos on February 28. (KEYSTONE/Ti-Press/Samuel Golay) Keystone / Samuel Golay
- Two employees set up a Covid-19 triage station at Bern’s university hospital on February 28. (KEYSTONE/Anthony Anex) Keystone / Anthony Anex
- View of abandoned tents after the carnival in Ticino, which had been cancelled owing to reports of coronavirus infections in the canton, on February 27. (KEYSTONE/Ti-Press/Samuel Golay) Keystone / Samuel Golay
- Bruce Aylward, leader of the WHO-China joint mission on Covid-19, offers an elbow instead of a handshake at the end of a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on February 25. (KEYSTONE/Salvatore Di Nolfi) Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi
- Officials including Daniel Koch (left), head of communicable diseases at the Federal Office of Public Health, catch up on developments during a news conference at the government’s media centre in Bern on January 28. (KEYSTONE/Anthony Anex) Keystone / Anthony Anex
How has Switzerland eased the coronavirus lockdown?
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The government approach to loosening the lockdown is based on a number of factors and expert recommendations aimed at protecting the public. The economy is also a consideration.
Kai Reusser / swissinfo.ch
Private and public events of up to 1,000 people have been allowed since June 22, as long as contact tracing can be guaranteed. Restaurants hosting groups of four people or more must take the phone number of one of the parties present so that contact tracing is possible in case of a coronavirus outbreak.
Events with more than 1,000 people – notably festivals and sporting events – remain banned until the end of August at the earliest. Many of Switzerland’s biggest business and cultural events have been cancelled or postponed.
What do you need to consider when staying in and travelling to Switzerland?
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On March 25 the Swiss government imposed strict entry restrictions at its borders and airports. These are being progressively eased and adapted.
After improvement to the coronavirus situation, on June 15, the government allowed travel between Switzerland and all European Schengen states as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and the United Kingdom. On July 20, citizens from the following countries, deemed as “safe”, will be able to enter Switzerland: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, Montenegro, New Zealand, South Korea, Rwanda, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay, as well as the EU states not belonging to the Schengen area (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania). China will also be added to the safe list in accordance with EU recommendations, provided that reciprocity is guaranteed to Swiss residents, the government said.
From July 6, anyone entering Switzerland from one of 29 “at risk” countries must be quarantined for 10 days. Once they have entered Switzerland, they must register with the cantonal authorities. The list will be updated once a month. Travellers affected will be notified during the flight, on board coaches and at border crossings. They will have to register with the cantonal authorities on arrival. Airlines and travel companies will also be instructed not to transport sick passengers. Full information about entering Switzerland and quarantine rules can be found here (French and German).
Swiss travellers are advised to check entry conditions in other countries. The foreign ministry advises residents to avoid unnecessary international travel.
Swiss International Air Lines has significantly reduced its flight schedule. Check on the SWISS website for details.
In order to prevent and slow down the spread of the virus as much as possible, people known to be affected have been isolated in Switzerland. The government reintroduced a strategy of contact tracing in May. This means that anyone who has been in close contact with a sick person, i.e. less than two metres away for more than 15 minutes, must also remain in quarantine for two weeks.
Those worried about a possible infection are advised to phone the doctor’s office first, rather than showing up in person. The cost of a test (CHF180) will be reimbursed by basic health insurance, the Health Office announced in early March.
Masks are compulsory on all public transport from July 6.
The authorities advise everyone to continue to observe the applicable rules on hygiene and social distancing in Switzerland. At public establishments such as restaurants, shops and museums, you must follow the rules set out in the applicable set of precautionary measures. This information will be provided on the premises.
What’s the situation for Swiss citizens living abroad?
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Under the Swiss Abroad Act, Swiss nationals living abroad cannot claim the right to an organised departure from a crisis area.
In March, the government advised Swiss travellers who are only temporarily overseas to return to the country as soon as possible. It urged tourists to register with a special travel app and provided chartered flights to repatriate stranded citizens.
The result was the biggest-ever repatriation operation of Swiss nationals. Nearly 7,000 people, including some 4,000 Swiss nationals, were repatriated on over 30 flights arranged by the Swiss authorities. Most Swiss tourists stranded abroad have since managed to return to the country, according to the foreign ministry.
All Swiss representations abroad remain accessible to Swiss citizens, and its helpline of the ministry is operational is operational.
Where can I find further information on the implications of Covid-19?
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swissinfo.ch is keeping this story updated daily with numbers of confirmed cases and deaths, as well as any new significant measures taken by the cantonal and federal authorities.
Unfortunately, we cannot research and answer individual questions. Please check the following official federal websites for the most accurate and up to date information.
Infoline for people travelling to Switzerland: +41 58 464 44 88 (6am–23pm)
The State Secretariat for Migration: updated information on the situation at the Swiss borders, with a helpline to answer questions about reasons for the refusal of entry into Switzerland and exceptions.
The Swiss foreign ministry: information in French, German and Italian about the situation regarding foreign travel and the steps to be followed by Swiss citizens going abroad.
The Federal Office for Public Health (FOPH): live updates of the national situation, as well as recommendations, public safety measures, and details of upcoming announcements.
The World Health Organization (WHO): information on the origins and nature of Covid-19, as well as the global situation and travel advice.
Johns Hopkins University: a global map that tracks the number of cases and fatalities by country.