The epidemiological situation is a cause of great concern. The number of infections is very high and is continuing to rise. Hospitals and healthcare workers have been under extreme pressure for weeks and the festive period increases the risk of an even more rapid rise in cases. At its meeting on 18 December, the Federal Council, after consulting the cantons, decided to tighten national measures against the spread of the coronavirus even further. The aim is to considerably reduce the number of contacts. From Tuesday, 22 December, restaurants and bars, cultural venues and sports and leisure facilities will have to close. The Federal Council has also expanded the use of rapid tests.
The aim of the measures is to reduce case numbers rapidly and substantially, to protect people from the virus, safeguard the health service and relieve the pressure on healthcare workers. The cantons must once again be able to guarantee at all times that tests are available, contacts can be traced and isolation and quarantine requirements are respected. The new measures take effect from Tuesday, 22 December, and will apply until 22 January 2021.
Restaurants to close
Restaurants and bars will be required to close. No exceptions will be made for the festive period. There will however be exceptions for work canteens, school canteens in primary and lower secondary schools, and meals for hotel guests. Takeaways and delivery services may remain open.
Sports facilities to close
Sports facilities will be closed. Outdoor sports in groups of up to five people continue to be permitted. Professional matches may continue to be played behind closed doors. Sports and cultural activities for children and young persons under the age of 16 are permitted, with the exception of competitive events.
Cultural and leisure venues to close
Museums, cinemas, libraries, botanical gardens, zoos, and other cultural and leisure venues will be closed. Cultural activities remain possible in small groups. Events with an audience, however, are still prohibited. Alternative forms of event, such as events broadcast online, are permitted.
Further restrictions on capacity of shops
The number of persons who may be in a shop at any given time will be further restricted. The maximum number depends on the floor space available. Strict precautionary measures will continue to apply in all shops. Restrictions on opening hours continue to apply: shops must remain closed between 7pm and 6am, and on Sundays and public holidays.
Relaxation of restrictions in individual cantons possible
Cantons in which the epidemiological situation is more favourable can choose to relax certain restrictions, and allow restaurants and sports facilities to open, for example. The R-number in particular is decisive in such cases, together with the 7-day incidence, which must be below the Swiss average.
Recommendation: Stay at home
People are urged to stay at home. They should keep social contacts to a minimum and refrain from making unnecessary journeys or excursions.
The Federal Council wants to be able to take further measures quickly in the coming weeks if the situation continues to deteriorate. It is monitoring developments closely. It will make an interim assessment on 30 December and take further stock of the situation in early January.
Cantons remain responsible for ski areas
The cantons remain responsible for ski areas. Strict requirements must be met for ski areas to operate. Ski areas can only remain open if the epidemiological situation allows and there are sufficient capacities in hospitals and for contact tracing and testing. Strict precautionary measures must also be in place and their implementation must be guaranteed. If these requirements are not met, ski areas will not be granted an operating permit.
Federal Council expands the use of rapid tests
The Federal Council is to expand the use of rapid tests to make it easier for people to get tested. It has decided to amend the COVID-19 Ordinance 3 accordingly. The new provisions will come into force on 21 December.
So far only rapid antigen tests using a nasopharyngeal swab have been approved. From next week, pharmacies, hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and testing centres will be permitted to use any type of rapid test that meet the FOPH criteria.
Rapid tests available to those without symptoms
People without any obvious symptoms and who do not meet the FOPH criteria for testing will also be permitted to take a rapid test. Taking a rapid test can, for example, be made one of the precautionary measures in care homes, hotels or in workplaces. A negative result from a rapid test is only valid for the day of the test. Until now, people have only been tested if they have symptoms, have received notification from the SwissCOVID app, or have been required to take a test because there has been an outbreak.
People who take a rapid test without meeting the test criteria, or institutions that require people without symptoms to take the tests, must pay for the test themselves. Those who test positive must take a PCR test immediately in order to confirm the result. The reason for this is the higher probability of false positive results from rapid tests. The Confederation will pay for the confirmatory PCR test.
No substitute for the rules on hygiene and social distancing
The expanded use of rapid tests is not intended as a substitute for the rules on hygiene and other behaviour issued by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). Hand hygiene, social distancing, wearing masks and reducing contact with others remain key measures for preventing infection and controlling the epidemic.
The Federal Council
Federal Office of Public Health