The spread of the new coronavirus in Switzerland has continued to slow. Results show that the public is cooperating well with measures to combat the virus. The Federal Council has therefore decided to further ease measures taken to protect the population against the coronavirus. In doing so, it is going further than originally announced on 16 April. From 11 May, not only will shops, markets and primary
and lower secondary schools be allowed to reopen, but also museums, libraries and restaurants.
The sequence of the individual steps is based on a risk analysis. The Federal Council has taken account of the effect that relaxing specific measures will have on people at especially high risk, how it may increase the level of contact with others and increase numbers and movements of people in public spaces. It has also considered the ease with which precautionary measures can be taken, and the impact of measures on the economy.
Rules on hygiene and social distancing still apply
The course taken by the epidemic from now on will largely depend on how well the public continues to comply with the rules on hygiene and social distancing. These rules still apply. The Federal Council will closely monitor the impact of easing measures on the development of the epidemic. The steps being taken to ease the measures in place are conditional on suitable precautionary measures being implemented. All businesses and institutions must draw up a plan for such measures, which must be based either on a model devised for their sector, or on requirements set out by the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO.
The Federal Council will decide at its meeting on 27 May on a third phase of easing measures from 8 June. Decisions are expected to be taken on lifting the ban on gatherings of more than five people, on classroom teaching in baccalaureate schools and higher education institutions, on reopening cultural venues, sports facilities and mountain transport systems, and on holding religious services. It will also discuss ending the extraordinary situation that it declared under the Epidemics Act. On 26 June, the Federal Council plans to take further decisions for the summer, based on the results of its monitoring programme.
Cautious reopening of restaurants from 11 May
From 11 May, restaurants will also be able to reopen, subject to strict requirements. In a first phase, no more than four people or a group of parents with children will be allowed to sit at each table. All guests must be seated, and groups of guests must sit at least two metres from the next or be separated by suitable partitioning. The Federal Council will decide on further steps to be taken on 27 May. The gradual reopening of restaurants will depend on precautionary measures being taken and has been discussed with sector representatives.
Cantons to decide how classes will be taught
Primary and lower secondary schools will be able to recommence classroom teaching from 11 May. The FOPH and the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education have drawn up requirements for the precautionary measures to be taken in consultation with the Science Taskforce and other experts. The cantons and communes have until 11 May to make arrangements for implementing these measures, taking account of local circumstances in each case. Schools will be allowed to be flexible in their approach to classroom teaching.
At baccalaureate schools and at vocational colleges and higher education institutions, classes involving up to five students, including music lessons can resume from 11 May. Exams can be held, provided the rules on hygiene and social distancing are respected. Classes involving larger groups should be possible from 8 June.
Academic and professional baccalaureates based on continuous assessment
Cantonal baccalaureate schools will be permitted to dispense with written baccalaureate examinations this year, following a decision of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education (EDK) not to hold oral examinations (see separate press release). The Federal Council is thus responding to a request from the EDK. The decision has also been taken to award the professional baccalaureate in 2020 entirely on the basis of continuous assessment grades. The federal government has sole responsibility for taking this decision.
Museums, libraries and archives to open earlier than expected
The Federal Council has decided that not only shops and markets, but also museums, libraries and archives should be allowed to reopen from 11 May. In these establishments, implementing the rules on hygiene and social distancing is straightforward and it is easy to control people’s movements. Botanical gardens and zoos will remain closed, but are expected to reopen on 8 June.
Federal Council permits sports training sessions from 11 May
The Federal Council is also easing measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that have been taken in relation to sports activities (see separate press release). From 11 May, recreational sports training can resume for small groups of no more than five people, provided no physical contact is involved, and the rules on hygiene and distancing are respected. In competitive and professional sports, the restrictions will be less stringent, and training sessions involving more than five people will be permitted. The Federal Council has also decided to permit matches in the professional leagues to be held behind closed doors from 8 June.
Entry restrictions to be gradually eased from 11 May
The Federal Council is also planning to gradually relax coronavirus-related restrictions on entry to Switzerland at the same time as the various sectors of the economy are allowed to reopen (see separate press release). In a first step, from 11 May, it is planned to process applications submitted before 25 March by workers from the EU/EFTA area and from third countries. For Swiss and EU citizens, family reunification in Switzerland will become possible again from 11 May. Border controls will however remain in place.
Large-scale events to remain banned until the end of August
The Federal Council has also decided that large-scale events involving more than 1000 people will remain banned until the end of August. By doing so, it aims to create certainty for those planning such events. The risk of transmitting the virus is far higher at large events and tracing all those who may be infected is impossible. Normally the rules on hygiene and social distancing cannot be complied with. The Federal Council will reassess the situation before the summer holiday season. On 27 May, it will also decide on the date from which smaller events with fewer than 1000 participants will be allowed again.
Tracing for all new infections
In order to contain the epidemic in the longer term, the federal government has drawn up a plan for the containment phase. As soon as the number the new infections has fallen sufficiently, all cantons will be required to conduct interviews to trace transmission chains across the country (contact tracing). The aim is to identify persons infected at an early stage and ensure that anyone with symptoms can be tested, not simply those who are at high risk or who have already been admitted to hospital, as is currently the case. Persons who test positive will be placed in isolation, while those who have been in contact with them will be notified and placed in quarantine. These measures must be complied with in order to break the chain of infection.
The testing of persons with mild symptoms who are not in any risk category is one of measures taken to contain the epidemic. It will therefore be paid for by the cantons. The cost of testing persons with severe symptoms or at increased risk of complications will still be covered by mandatory health insurance. Due to rapid technical advances, the FDHA has also decided to reduce the tariff for analyses charged under mandatory health insurance to CHF 95 with effect from 30 April.
Voluntary app to help contain the epidemic
The population should also be provided with a digital application that uses Bluetooth technology to notify users if they have spent too long in close proximity to a person who is infected. This app is currently being developed by the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne on behalf of the federal government and the Science Task Force. Persons alerted by the app can obtain further advice by calling the FOPH Infoline. Using the app is voluntary: users are the only persons who can see their own data and no personal data or location details will be used. Furthermore, the app will only be used while the crisis is ongoing. The Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner and the National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics has recommended that these basic principles be respected.
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