Coronavirus: further measures to contain the epidemic

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At its meeting on 28 October, the Federal Council agreed a further series of national measures to combat the rapid spread of the coronavirus. The aim of the measures is to sharply reduce the level of contact between people. Discos and nightclubs will have to shut, while bars and restaurants will close at 11pm. All events with more than 50 people, and recreational sporting and cultural activities with more than 15 people will be prohibited. Furthermore, the requirement to wear masks will be extended to an additional range of situations. The measures will apply from Thursday, 29 October, for an indefinite period of time. From Monday, 2 November, higher education institutions will have to forgo face-to-face teaching. Following consultations with the cantons, the Federal Council has amended the Special Situation COVID-19 Ordinance accordingly. It has also amended the rules regarding travel quarantine, and approved the introduction of rapid testing.

The number of cases of people infected with the virus and the number of people requiring hospital treatment are rising sharply. The Federal Council wants to curb the spread of the coronavirus and prevent intensive care units and healthcare staff in hospitals from becoming overburdened. It is therefore introducing measures aimed at reducing the level of contact between people.

Nightclubs to close
Discos and nightclubs will be closed. There is an elevated risk of the virus spreading at these establishments. No more than four people will be allowed to sit at a table in restaurants and bars, with the exception of families with children. All bars and restaurants must close between 11pm and 6am.

Ban on events with more than 50 people
Events with more than 50 people will no longer be permitted. This concerns all sporting, cultural and other events. The exceptions to this rule are parliamentary and communal assemblies. It is still permitted to hold political demonstrations and collect signatures for referendums and initiatives - as long as the necessary precautionary measures are taken. Given that many people are becoming infected when families and friends meet, the number of people allowed to attend such private gatherings will be limited to 10.

No recreational sporting or cultural activities with more than 15 people
Recreational sporting and cultural activities are only permitted indoors for up to 15 people if a sufficient distance can be maintained and if masks are worn. A mask does not have to be worn if there is a generous amount of space, such as in tennis halls or large rooms. Outdoors it is only necessary to ensure that people keep their distance. Contact sports are prohibited. These rules do not apply to children under the age of 16.

With regard to professional sporting and cultural activities, practice and training sessions, competitive events, rehearsals and performances are permitted. Due to the fact that a particularly large number of droplets are released while singing, performances by amateur choirs are prohibited, although professional choirs may continue to practise.

Ban on face-to-face teaching at higher education institutions
Higher education institutions will have to switch to distance learning from Monday, 2 November. Classroom teaching is still permitted at compulsory school level and at upper secondary schools (baccalaureate and vocational schools).

Mandatory wearing of masks extended
The wearing of masks has been mandatory since 19 October in publicly accessible indoor spaces as well as in public transport waiting areas and at railway stations and airports. Masks must now also be worn outside establishments and facilities, such as shops, venues, restaurants and bars, or at farmers’ and Christmas markets.

Masks are also mandatory in busy pedestrian zones and wherever the required distance cannot be maintained in public spaces.

A mask is now also mandatory in schools from upper secondary level upwards. Similarly, masks are now mandatory in the workplace unless the distance between workspaces can be maintained (e.g. in individual offices). Employers should allow staff to work from home where possible and ensure that staff are protected in the workplace.

Children under the age of 12, persons who are unable to wear a mask for medical reasons, and guests in restaurants and bars when seated at a table are not required to wear a mask

Federal Council to introduce rapid testing
From 2 November, rapid antigen tests may also be used to determine a COVID-19 infection, in addition to the PCR tests already in use. This will allow faster and more widespread testing and allow more positive cases among the population to be identified and isolated rapidly.

The accuracy of rapid tests has been evaluated by the Centre national de Référence pour Infections Virales Emergentes (CRIVE) in Geneva. The rapid tests are less sensitive than PCR tests and will mainly be used to test persons who are potentially infectious. The Federal Office of Public Health FOPH therefore only envisages using these rapid tests for certain groups of individuals who are deemed symptomatic according to the FOPH criteria, symptoms having emerged within the previous four days, and who are not classed as being at especially high risk. Rapid tests may also be used for asymptomatic individuals who have been notified via the Swiss Covid app. If they test positive, they should also take a PCR test. However, anyone who tests positive following a rapid test should still go into isolation immediately.

The cost of the rapid tests will be covered by the Confederation - although only for individuals who fulfil the FOPH criteria for being tested.

Federal Council sets new threshold for travel quarantine
The Federal Council has also adapted the threshold for countries and areas to be added to the quarantine list, as well as exceptions to the quarantine requirement for business travellers. The changes come into force on 29 October.

As incidence rates in Switzerland are now above average compared with the rest of Europe, the threshold will be raised. Under the amended provisions, only countries and areas with an incidence rate that is 60 higher than that in Switzerland will now be placed on the quarantine list.

The provisions covering exceptions for business travellers and for people travelling for medical reasons are also to be amended. The rule whereby such trips must not last longer than five days will no longer apply.

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