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Coronavirus: the situation in Switzerland

Waiting for a jab at the Bernexpo exhibition centre in Bern on May 10 Peter Klaunzer/Keystone

Switzerland has further relaxed its Covid-19 restrictions, in a context of stabilising infection and hospitalisation rates. The vaccination roll-out is accelerating to over 62,000 jabs a day.

This content was published on May 11, 2021 - 14:15
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  • The number of new positive Covid cases continues to go down. On May 11, the national 14-day incidence stood at 241 new cases per 100,000 residents. The national reproduction (R-value) on April 30 was 0.9.
  • Vaccination roll-out continues to accelerate (over 62,000 jabs a day, or +21% compared with the previous week). Over 3.2 million Covid-19 doses were administered between late December and May 9, by which time over 12.5% of the population had been fully vaccinated. 
  • More than 10,100 people have died in connection with Covid-19 in Switzerland, which has a population of 8.6 million.
  • On April 21, the government said the additional relaxation of pandemic measures was unlikely before May 26. This announcement came two days after restaurants and bars were allowed to reopen their outdoor seating areas.
  • On May 7, the government said a forgery-proof Covid-19 certificate on request would be available by the end of June to anyone who has been vaccinated, has recovered from or has recently tested negative for coronavirus.
  • Rules for entering SwitzerlandExternal link were adapted on February 8. Depending on the type of travel, incoming travellers might have to fill out a form, provide proof of a negative test and/or go into quarantine.
  • The complete updated data on the pandemic can be found in our article Coronavirus: the latest numbers or in the article below.
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What’s the current situation?

From the end of February until mid-April the number of new infections rose slowly amid warnings of new coronavirus variants. The new caseload has since stabilised at around 2,000 new confirmed cases per day.  

Since January 4 (vaccinations began in late December) the government has rolled out its vaccination planExternal link. It has set an ambitious target: to inoculate six million people or 70% of the population – on a voluntary basis – by summer, or up to 70,000 vaccine shots per day.

The authorities have ordered nearly 36 million vaccine doses from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Curevac and Novavax for the population of 8.6 million people. So far, there are two vaccines approved and available in the country, those from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine has also been approved but has not been ordered by the Federal Office of Public Health. Others should follow.

Kai Reusser / swissinfo.ch

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 authorities advise everyone to continue to observe the applicable rules on hygiene and social distancingExternal link in Switzerland. At public establishments you must follow the rules set out in the applicable set of precautionary measures. 

Latest measures

A rise in numbers of infections postponed plans to loosen the lockdown in March, although the limit on household gatherings was raised from five people to ten.

Since April 19, restaurants and bars have been able to open outdoor seating areas, and up to 100 spectators outdoors or 50 indoors have been able to watch sporting and cultural events.

Kai Reusser / swissinfo.ch

Restrictions on adults taking part in leisure activities (of up to 15 people) were also eased.

Employees at companies that test staff at least once a week are not required to quarantine if they have been in contact at work with someone who has tested positive.

Since February 1 anyone found to be in breach of measures to fight the pandemic, such as failing to wear a mask on public transport (see below) or attending large private gatherings, can be fined CHF50-CHF200.  

Masks and testing

Everyone aged 12 or older travelling on trains, trams, buses, mountain railways, cable cars and ships must wear face masks. Federal Railways conductors can ask anyone not wearing a mask to leave the train; anyone refusing will be fined. Passengers on planes must also mask up.

The government adopted an extended testing strategy along with a contact-tracing concept as it moved to ease social distancing measures. Swiss residents can also download the SwissCovid smartphone app, a contact-tracing system.

On May 7, Swiss laboratories said they were no longer trying to detect the British mutation of Covid-19 but were developing tests to pinpoint a newer Indian variant in the country.

Also on May 7, the number of people in Switzerland who have been fully vaccinated topped one million.

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Financial consequences

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, including CHF40 billion in emergency loans for struggling companies. It has also presented a plan to offer additional loans totalling up to CHF154 million for start-up companies

The promised economic package provides relief for companies with liquidity problems to obtain transitional bank loans. Companies hit by the crisis can 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.

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. Around CHF1.6 billion in such hardship loans had been paid out to almost 20,000 companies by the beginning of April, according to the economics ministry. Partial unemployment claims have increased sharply due to the pandemic and are expected to continue to rise. 

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. 

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 ice 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.

What do you need to consider when staying in and travelling to Switzerland? 

Entering Switzerland remains complicated during the pandemic. Holders of a Swiss passport or a valid residence permit for Switzerland may enter Switzerland from any country. For all other individuals, entry restrictions may apply. You will find information on the website of the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM)External link.

On April 20, the US State Department added 116 countries, including Switzerland, to its “Level Four: Do Not Travel” advisory listExternal link due to the high level of Covid.

Normal entry requirementsExternal link apply to people entering the country from Schengen states, EU member states, certain small European states and certain states outside Europe. SEM maintains a list of such countriesExternal link.

On February 8 the rules for people entering Switzerland were adapted. This flowchart External link(below) gives an overview of the new rules. If entry is permitted, you must go into quarantine if you arrived from one of the countries and regions with a high-risk of infection External linkthat features on a list External linkregularly updated by the Federal Office of Public Health. The ten-day quarantine can be shortened if people test negative for Covid-19 after seven days. Switzerland now requires negative coronavirus PCR test results (within 72 hours) for people over the age of 12 entering the country from high-risk areas or by plane. In addition, most incoming travellers have to complete an online form before arriving.

FOPH

Swiss travellers are advised to check entry conditions in other countries. The foreign ministry advises residents to avoid unnecessary international travel. 

France has tightened the rules for travellers entering from the EU and Schengen area states, including Switzerland. Since February 1, arrivals from inside the EU and several other neighbouring states such as Switzerland must present a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. All arrivals, not just by air and sea, but by land too, must comply with the test rule. There are exemptions, including for cross-border workers and hauliers, and anyone living within 30km of the French border.

Swiss International Air Lines has significantly reduced its flight schedule. Check on the SWISS websiteExternal link for details. 

What’s the situation for Swiss citizens living abroad?

Under the Swiss Abroad Act, External linkSwiss nationals living abroad cannot claim the right to an organised departure from a crisis area. 

All Swiss representations abroad remain accessible to Swiss citizens, and its helpline of the ministry is operationalExternal link

Where can I find further information on the implications of Covid-19?

swissinfo.ch is keeping this story updated regularly 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–11pm)

The State Secretariat for MigrationExternal link: updated information on the situation at Swiss borders, with a helpline to answer questions about reasons for the refusal of entry into Switzerland and exceptions.

The Swiss foreign ministryExternal link: 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)External link: live updates of the national situation, as well as recommendations, public safety measures, and details of upcoming announcements.

The World Health Organization (WHO)External link: information on the origins and nature of Covid-19, as well as the global situation and travel advice.

Johns Hopkins UniversityExternal link: a global map that tracks the number of cases and fatalities by country.

Follow SWI swissinfo.ch hereExternal link, on FacebookExternal link, and on TwitterExternal link for timely updates on the situation in Switzerland.

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