Corona

Coronavirus in Switzerland – FAQs

NEWS
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Source: iStock.com / Kira-Yan

Coronavirus arrived in Switzerland on 25 February 2020. Since then, we have been answering key questions relating to this rapidly changing situation.

FAQs: health insurance

If I have coronavirus, do I absolutely have to go to the hospital or can I place myself in quarantine at home?

Anyone experiencing symptoms of the COVID-19 illness such as tiredness, fever and a dry cough should stay at home and call their family doctor or telemedicine centre. If an infection with coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is suspected, you will need to be tested. If the lab confirms a case of infection, the infected person will be isolated in accordance with the regulations of their cantonal medical service. In otherwise healthy people, an infection may cause only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. In this case, it is enough to self-isolate at home for ten days. Anyone who has been in close contact with an infected person should also go into quarantine for ten days.

Who carries the costs if I have to go to the hospital or into quarantine?

All medical treatment and any measures prescribed by a doctor are covered by basic health insurance. The usual out-of-pocket expenses (deductible, coinsurance and the contribution to the cost of a hospital stay) apply.
Now, rapid tests are available in places such as care homes and workplaces for those who do not have any symptoms. However, if you do not fulfil all the criteria for testing, you have to pay for the test yourself. Pharmacies, hospitals, doctor's surgeries and test centres are all permitted to carry out rapid tests that meet the criteria of the FOPH.

What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health makes a distinction between self-isolation and self-quarantine. Self-isolation is required when an affected person shows symptoms that may be due to a coronavirus infection (e.g. dry cough and fever). To prevent transmission of the virus to others, this person should remain at home – as long as their general health allows. They should remain self-isolated for 48 hours after the symptoms have resolved, as long as at least 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms. Anyone who has been in close contact with an affected person should also self-quarantine at home for 10 days.

The most important rule is to avoid any type of contact with other people. The Federal Office of Public Health has issued the following guidance on self-quarantine:

One-person households

  • Family members, friends or delivery services should deliver food and other important products like medication by leaving them outside the door.

Multi-person households

  • The quarantined person should set themselves up in a room and keep the door closed at all times. They must take their meals in this room and avoid all visits and any type of contact. They may only leave the room when necessary.
  • They absolutely must wash their hands or use hand sanitizer regularly.
  • The infected person should not share household items such as glasses, cups, plates, cutlery, towels or bedding with anyone else. Any household items used by the infected person must be washed carefully in the dishwasher or washing machine.
  • Clothes, bedding and towels must be washed regularly in a washing machine.

When and for how long do I have to go into quarantine?

If a person falls ill, people in their immediate environment must go into quarantine – if possible at home. This means that they must stay at home for the period of time recommended by the Federal Council and not leave the house. to protect the rest of society from the risk of infection. People under quarantine are not allowed to go shopping. The local authorities are responsible for providing them with food.

Anyone who has had contact with an infected person must go into quarantine for ten days. This period can be shortened if the person tests negative, but only from the seventh day. In such cases, people must pay for the test themselves.

People who do not comply with quarantine regulations can be legally prosecuted.

Who carries the cost of coronavirus testing?

The government covers all the costs for coronavirus infection tests as well as serological tests to detect antibodies.

Tests are also available in places such as care homes and workplaces for those who do not have any symptoms. The government also covers the cost of tests for people with no symptoms if they are carried out as part of a mass testing programme. The purpose of this is to better protect at-risk people such as the elderly in care homes. Since half of all cases are asymptomatic, this should help identify more infections.

However, if you do not fulfil all the criteria for testing, you have to pay for the test yourself. Pharmacies, hospitals, doctor's surgeries and test centres are all permitted to carry out rapid tests that meet the criteria of the FOPH.

What types of coronavirus tests are there, and how do they work?

There are various tests available that can detect a coronavirus infection, but they are not all equally accurate or reliable. PCR tests and antigen tests are used to verify the presence of an acute infection. An antibody test determines whether you had a past infection, as an immune response produces antibodies.

A PCR test involves taking a sample from the nose or throat. Usually, a swab on the end of a flexible stick is inserted through the nose into the throat. At the laboratory, the sample is tested using the real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method. If the genetic material of the virus is detected in the sample, it is repeatedly copied using PCR until the quantity is large enough to confirm the presence and concentration of the virus. The number of PCR cycles is indicated by the cycle threshold (Ct) value. The higher the Ct value, the lower the original viral load and presumably the infectiousness. However, external factors such as how long the sample had to travel for may affect the Ct value. Because the number of cycles varies, there are different quantities of false-positive and false-negative results. A PCR test only determines whether you currently have a coronavirus infection. Even the next day, the result may be different. Therefore, a negative test result does not release you from observing the protective measures.

A rapid test is usually an antigen test that detects the special proteins of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The antigen text requires a nasal or throat swab like the PCR test, provides a result in 15-20 minutes like a pregnancy test, can be performed by pharmacies and is cheaper than a PCR test. Antigen tests are useful for people who have no symptoms of the illness. They are beneficial in hospitals and care homes and are used to test patients, residents, staff and visitors.

With a few drops of blood and an antibody test, a lab can identify whether someone has been infected with coronavirus in recent weeks or months. The presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies indicates that the tested person has probably already been infected with coronavirus, even if they had only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Although antibody tests are fairly reliable, like any other test they can deliver false results, particularly when case numbers in general are low. In addition, the presence of antibodies is no guarantee of immunity or that the person is no longer contagious.

If you want to be on the safe side, you should arrange for a second test.

Why has Switzerland stopped testing?

The official recommendation is that only people with symptoms should be tested. Many countries are successfully testing entire population groups preventively, because a lot of infected people do not have any symptoms. These people must then be identified in order to break chains of transmission more effectively. In the Bernina region in Graubünden, mass testing was carried out in mid-December, including second tests. This enabled the authorities to identify infected people with no symptoms and to reduce case numbers to almost zero by the end of the year. Some cantons do mass testing in schools in which infections have occurred.

For this reason, the government is now recommending mass testing in care homes, schools, hotels and in workplaces, and will also pay for testing of asymptomatic people.

What can I do if I had to shake hands with someone and am now sick?

The Federal Office of Public Health’s behavioural recommendations do not carry the force of law, so no one can be held legally liable. It is therefore important – and not at all rude – to avoid shaking hands. Equally important are the other FOPH recommendations such as regular hand-washing or use of hand sanitizer, and observing the 1.5-metre distance rule outside your home. You are advised to wear a face mask if you cannot observe this rule.

Is there such thing as coronavirus insurance?

This type of insurance is usually a scam (in German only). Medical treatment is covered by mandatory basic health insurance, minus out-of-pocket expenses (deductible and coinsurance). If you plan to take out some other kind of policy that supposedly covers coronavirus, you should check the general conditions of insurance. As a rule, current claims are usually excluded for new policyholders.

Am I already insured against coronavirus even though I haven’t yet received the policy?

If you plan to take out some other kind of policy that supposedly covers coronavirus, you should check the general conditions of insurance. As a rule, current claims are usually excluded for new policyholders. Mandatory basic health insurance is the only insurance that covers all the obligatory medical services stipulated in the Health Insurance Act (KVG/LAMal) from the time the policy is taken out, without a waiting period.

I’ve had coronavirus and have recovered with no complications. Do I still need to follow the recommendations of the Federal Council?

At the moment, you can assume that you have some immunity for a period of time following recovery, although some people have become infected a second time. Mutations of the virus are also spreading. It is not currently clear how effectively antibodies protect a person from the new variants. You should still adhere to the rules though to avoid giving the impression that the rules no longer apply.

Since protective equipment has become scarce and therefore more expensive during coronavirus, are doctors and hospitals allowed to pass on these higher costs?

They can charge for it according to the tariff system for outpatient medical services (TARMED). Equipment costs in excess of three francs must be reimbursed by the health insurer, minus the deductible or the 10% coinsurance payment if the annual deductible has been reached. If the service provided by the doctor or hospital is charged at a flat rate, any extra costs may not be charged, whether they were incurred by coronavirus or not.

Do I have to pay for the coronavirus vaccine myself?

No. The vaccine is covered by basic health insurance, irrespective of your deductible. There is no coinsurance to pay either. According to the Epidemics Act, any costs not covered by health insurance will be borne by the federal government and the cantons. All vaccinations are therefore covered by our health insurance premiums and tax, if they are carried out in cantonal vaccination centres by qualified professionals, or elsewhere by doctors or pharmacists.

I was infected by coronavirus in 2020 and still haven’t fully recovered. Where can I find help? What about the financial effects?

Unfortunately, many coronavirus patients still feel unwell months after contracting the illness. Many have health complaints following the infection. This is often referred to as long COVID. Here is a list of who to contact in your canton (in German, French and Italian only) if you are experiencing symptoms of long COVID. Long COVID is a challenge for medicine and, like whiplash injuries, is becoming a major test for disability insurance providers and the courts. Exchange experiences with other long COVID patients – together you are stronger.

Regarding financial concerns, there are different aspects to consider. The cost of medical treatment is covered by basic health insurance, minus the deductible and coinsurance. If you have to reduce your working hours or can no longer work at all, it is important for the providers of health insurance, daily sickness allowance insurance and disability insurance to reach an agreement. You should have no difficulty claiming daily sickness allowance. If long COVID persists for more than two years, your disability insurance provider must decide on whether to award a pension. Like with whiplash injuries, this can be difficult.

FAQs: travel and events

In light of the coronavirus outbreak, I would like to cancel a trip I've booked. Is that possible?

If you have taken out cancellation expenses insurance, you can cancel your trip without losing money. However, the insurance must cover pandemics or epidemics. The first step, though, is to request a refund of the costs from the service provider (e.g. hotel or airline) If your request is not successful, you can then refer to your cancellation expenses insurance. The insurer will check whether the claim is justified. Of course, you can simply cancel just because you are worried, but you won’t get any money back. Cancellation expenses insurance will not cover your costs in this case. 

My package holiday has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Can I get my money back?

Travel agencies can either give you a voucher to be redeemed against a future holiday, refund the money or postpone the trip. If the future trip is more expensive, you do not need to pay the extra; if it is cheaper, the agency must pay you the difference. You can choose whether to accept the voucher or get a refund. Given the current circumstances, you should accept that it may take some time. The reason for this is that the airlines do not reimburse travel agencies for cancelled flights straight away.

I booked my holiday online and paid for the flight, hotels and hire car etc. separately. Can I get my money back?

This is more complicated than with a package holiday. You will have to request and check the cancellation conditions of each company separately. Some flight tickets, purchased from Swiss, for example, can be refunded. It depends on the refund policy. Non-refundable tickets cannot be cancelled if the flight is taking place. Here is the refund form for Swiss flights. 

You should be able to rebook at no extra charge. Here you will find the rebooking conditions for flights with Swiss.

For hotel bookings and car hire, you first need to clarify whether you will get a partial or a full refund. Experience shows that these companies are usually accommodating. If you have cancellation expenses insurance, you should first contact the travel agency to cancel your holiday, and then ask for statement of cancellation costs. The insurance company will refund the difference if the reason for cancellation is an insured event. Some insurers will pay out even when their general conditions of insurance do not oblige them to. 

I cancelled my holiday before the crisis because I was worried about coronavirus. Is there any chance of me getting my money back?

Your chances are slim, as the cancellation conditions will apply. You can try to ask for your money back though, as some operators are showing more goodwill in the current situation.

What should I bear in mind if I am planning a trip or wish to book one now?

The borders between Switzerland and EU and EFTA countries have been open since 15 June. Find out what conditions apply in your destination country before you travel. If you want to book a trip, you should choose a package holiday if you can. You have better legal protection with this kind of deal thanks to the Federal Act on Package Travel. Try to book with service providers who allow you to cancel shortly before departure.

If you do not yet have any cancellation expenses insurance, you can consider taking out the travel insurance usually offered by the travel agent or tour operator. But don't forget to check the small print to make sure pandemics and epidemics are covered. Note also that some insurers exclude risks associated with coronavirus for new customers. Comparis recently produced an analysis on this subject (in German and French only).

Since Thursday 29 October 2020, anyone returning from countries in which the 14-day incidence rate in 100,000 people is more than 60 higher than the current incidence rate in Switzerland must go into quarantine. Since the incidence rate in Switzerland is so high, many countries have disappeared from the Swiss quarantine list.

Travellers arriving from countries with an increased risk of infection must provide proof of a negative PCR test carried out no more than 72 hours before entering Switzerland or go into quarantine. Quarantine lasts for ten days but can be shortened if you take a test on day seven and the result is negative.

People arriving by aeroplane from countries that are not considered high risk, must show a negative test result when boarding the plane to return.

Before taking a trip abroad, find out whether your destination is on the FOPH list. Special rules apply to border areas and cross-border commuters.

Depending on the destination country, you will either have to go into quarantine or prove that you have tested negative. Germany has declared the whole of Switzerland as a high-risk area. The travel warning applies as of 24 October. Anyone who has spent time in a high-risk area within 14 days of entering Germany must provide proof of a negative test result that is no older than 48 hours or go into quarantine at their destination for 14 days. Anyone not complying with these rules will be fined.

Federal states such as Baden-Württemberg apply a so-called 24-hour rule. Anyone entering the state from a high-risk area but staying less than 24 hours does not need to provide proof of a negative test result.

On 21 December 2020, following the discovery of a new, more contagious variant of coronavirus in the UK and South Africa, the Federal Council introduced measures to prevent the further spread of this variant as far as possible. From 14 December 2020, anyone arriving from either country is required to quarantine for ten days. In addition, on 21 December 2020, the Federal Council imposed a general entry ban for non-Swiss residents seeking to travel from the UK and South Africa to Switzerland. The main aim of this measure is to prevent travel from these countries for tourism purposes.

Who pays if I am stuck somewhere and cannot get back to Switzerland?

People who live in Switzerland are generally responsible for their return trip themselves. They will have to pay any additional costs for hotels and return flights. If it was a package holiday, the travel agency or tour operator will help organize the return journey. Sometimes the agency will cover the cost of any additional overnight stays. Some cancellation expenses insurance policies will also cover the cost up to the sum insured stated in the policy. 

What should I bear in mind when travelling to Switzerland?

Before entering Switzerland, everyone must fill in the electronic entry form (one form per person). Forms for children under 18 and legally incompetent persons can be filled in by an accompanying adult. Cross-border workers are exempt from this requirement.

I planned a wedding with a large number of guests. Who will cover the money I lost because I had to cancel it due to the state of emergency?

If you took out wedding or event insurance, you need to check with your insurer to see whether your policy covers costs relating to epidemics or pandemics. This is not normally the case. It usually costs more to cancel a wedding than to postpone it. If you have a cancellation expenses insurance policy that also covers family members, you can at least try to claim back the cost of any trips you booked in connection with the wedding for you and anyone from your household – provided epidemics and pandemics are covered. First, however, you must contact the event organizer and ask for your costs to be refunded.

Can I still take out travel insurance?

Yes, you can do that at any time. However, the insurance policy will not cover trips you have already booked. Travel insurance invariably makes sense for expensive holidays and for people who travel a lot.It's a good idea to choose an insurance product that includes cover for risks associated with epidemics and pandemics, and does not contain specific exclusions for coronavirus and COVID-19. Comparis recently produced an analysis on this subject (in German and French only).

I have tickets for an event that is now not taking place because of the virus. Can I get the price of the ticket reimbursed?

Event organizers should reimburse the ticket price. They are currently working on different ways to do this. The best thing to do is visit the organizer's website. “Travel insurance” may cover the refund of event tickets up to the price stated in the policy, even if they are not part of an overall travel arrangement. Comparis recently produced an analysis on this subject (in German and French only).

You are advised to contact your insurance provider directly for more information. You can also ask the organizer whether it is possible to get a refund for the cost of the ticket.

If your ticket is not refunded, you can contact the consumer protection agency at info@konsumentenschutz.ch, mentioning “ticket refund”.

I took out ticket insurance for three francs when I purchased the ticket. Does this cover the cost of the ticket if the event is cancelled because of the virus?

With ticket insurance, you usually only get the ticket price refunded if you could not attend the event because you were ill (e.g. coronavirus), your bus or train was cancelled or delayed or you had an accident or a breakdown on the way. According to the insurance conditions, if the event was cancelled because of the event ban by the government, the ticket price cannot be refunded.

What are the limits on public and private events and spontaneous gatherings?

As of 18 January 2021, people may only gather in groups of five maximum. As of 1 March, friends and family members may meet in groups of up to 15 people outside. Sports and cultural activities (with no physical contact) are also allowed.

Municipal assemblies, parliamentary sessions and parliamentary committee meetings are still allowed, as is the collection of signatures for referendums and initiatives. Church services may still be attended by up to 50 people. The necessary protective measures are obligatory.

A limit of 10 people applies to private events involving family and friends.

Higher education establishments switched to distance learning on Monday 2 November. Pupils will continue to attend compulsory educational facilities, including vocational colleges.

Spontaneous gatherings of more than five people in public is prohibited both indoors and outdoors.

Mask wearing is compulsory at all events and spontaneous gatherings except if people eating or drinking.

FAQs: property and moving home

Comparis answers your questions about whether and how to move home during the coronavirus crisis in this article on the subject of property and moving home

FAQs: mortgages

How will the crisis affect mortgage rates? And how might it impact property prices in the long term? Is it worth investing in property in the current situation? Comparis has compiled some questions and answers on the subject of coronavirus and mortgages for you.

FAQs: mobility

I need a car for the next few weeks. What are my options?

If you need a car quickly and don't want to be tied into a long-term agreement, a car subscription is a good choice. With a subscription, you pay for access to a vehicle, including insurance, services, repairs, tyres, taxes and even the motorway tax sticker – all at a fixed monthly price. In addition, a car subscription, unlike a lease, only ties you into a short minimum contract period. So if in a couple of months’ time, you find you don't need the car any more, you can return it after giving 30 days’ notice. Some providers will deliver the vehicle straight to your home.

Can I take my vehicle to the garage for a service or to be repaired?

Yes, you can. Garages remain open, just like they did last spring. Repair shops for motorcycles and bicycles can also continue to operate. Always make an appointment to avoid having to wait around. Where possible, the vehicle and key handover should be contactless. Some garages also offer pick-up and delivery services.

Are road traffic offices open at the moment?

Road traffic offices are public institutions and are open as usual. However, it is still advisable to complete any transactions online or by post wherever possible. For more information, see the website of the road traffic office in your canton of residence.

FAQs: finances and pensions

Why are stock markets recovering so quickly and how sustainable is this development?

After stock prices plunged in March, markets are rallying significantly, with some even reaching record highs. Whether this represents sustained recovery or a so-called bear market rally will only become clear with time. A bear market rally is when stock prices increase sharply during a longer-term period of decline. The gradual easing of the lockdown, government rescue packages and hopes for a speedy economic recovery worldwide are currently driving the markets. Low interest rates continue to bolster stock prices. This confidence can soon turn to disappointment, however, should the pandemic not be brought under control as planned.

My pillar 3a pension is invested in shares, which have now dropped significantly in value. Should I sell them now?

History shows that investments in shares yield a greater return over the long term than other forms of investment such as conventional savings accounts. Stock markets have suffered major losses in the past but have recovered again over time. Note also that saving smaller amounts on a regular basis helps balance out exchange rate fluctuations better. Experts call this the “cost average effect”. In other words, you buy more shares when prices are falling than when prices are rising. This reduces the risk of investing at the wrong time and paying too high a price for the entire assets invested.

FAQs: digital communications

How often should I clean my smartphone?

We tap on our mobile phones hundreds of times a day, so they are teeming with germs and bacteria. You should therefore clean your phone regularly – not just because of coronavirus, though this makes it especially important to do so. You should clean it once or twice a day. The best way is to wipe the phone carefully using a cleaning cloth with warm water and a little washing-up liquid. Dry it with an absorbent cloth and apply a little disinfectant spray. Avoid using very strong cleaning fluids as they can damage the oil-resistant coating on the display.

Remember:

  • Don't put your phone on possible sources of infection such as a toilet or a table on the train.
  • Clean your smartphone once or twice a day.
  • Try to keep your phone on you as much as possible.

Telecommunications providers are supplying the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) with mobile tracking data. Is that legal?

Yes, according to the Federal Council, the analysis of mobile data is important for monitoring population behaviour. It helps the FOPH to establish whether its instructions are being followed. The data used is not personal data and is not provided in real time. At the FOPH, only one person is permitted to access this data, and the Federal Council has promised that no third parties will be allowed to view it.

How do tracking or tracing apps work and do I have to install one?

The SwissCovid tracing app has been available for download since 25 June 2020. This app will alert you if you have been closer than 1.5 metres to an infected person for more than 15 minutes within a 24-hour period. Of course, for this to work, the infected person must report the positive test result by entering a code in the app. There have been repeated delays in the assignment of these so-called covidcodes by the contact tracing centres at the cantonal health offices. Now that laboratories, infoline staff, test centres, doctors and pharmacists are permitted to assign codes and therefore reduce the pressure on the cantonal health office, these delays have been minimized. Rapid antigen tests are also helping to speed up the process.

Making a significant contribution to the development of the app are researchers from the Federal Institutes of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and Zurich (ETH). The app can be used to warn people who have been in contact with an infected person so that they can be tested. The data is made anonymous in accordance with data privacy requirements and stored locally on the person’s smartphone. Google and Apple have now also adopted the principle of evaluating data anonymously and locally on users’ smartphones, and have integrated the function in their mobile operating systems.

Use of the SwissCovid app is optional in Switzerland. Over 90% of the Swiss population has a smartphone with the Bluetooth function activated for their smartwatches or headphones. Many will recognize the personal benefits of a tracing app. Some 60-70% of the population need to be using the app for it to have a meaningful effect. However, even with fewer users – currently around 2 million people – the virus transmission rate can be kept below one (one further infection per infected person) without a lockdown if the protective rules of the FOPH also continue to be observed.

I installed the SwissCovid app on my smartphone and have tested positive. Will people who I've been close to be warned automatically?

No. If someone who has downloaded the SwissCovid app tests positive for SARS-CoV-2, they enter their covidcode into the app, which allows them to issue a warning to other SwissCovid app users with whom they have had contact during the potentially infectious period (for at least 15 minutes within one day at a distance of 1.5 metres or less). Since 18 November 2020, all healthcare facilities that have access to the code management system have been able to generate a covidcode. This includes laboratories, infoline staff, testing centres, doctors and pharmacies.

Miscellaneous

Can my pets (dogs, cats etc.) catch coronavirus?

So far, it has not been established whether cats and dogs can become infected by or transmit the virus. However, scientists estimate the risk to be very low. If a pet lives in the same home as someone with coronavirus, there is a chance it may become infected or contaminated with the virus. The pets themselves show no symptoms of the illness, i.e. they don't get sick.

The FOPH advises all pet owners who are isolated at home because of the virus to avoid contact with their pets and arrange for a healthy person to look after them. Cats and dogs from a quarantined household do not require special washing or disinfecting. Of course, you should always wash your hands after handling a pet.

Do I have to pay my childcare costs if the childcare centre closes or I decide to look after my child at home?

In cantons where parents are voluntarily taking care of their children at home, these parents must pay their contribution. This is because the childcare centres are open as usual and fixed costs such as wages and rent must still be paid. The government has stated that it is up to the cantons and municipalities to decide on whether to provide financial support. For more information, see: Swiss Childcare Association (in German, French and Italian only)

No leisure activities (karate lessons, football training, music schools etc.) were allowed to take place. Some organizations provided information to enable courses to continue at home. In these conditions, do I have to keep paying the course fees?

These contracts are based on a service being provided for a fee. If a customer has already paid the course fees but cannot make use of the service, either fully or partially (information material with instructions) and due to no fault of either party, the customer is entitled to a full or partial refund of the fees paid. The course provider can stipulate more precise arrangements in their general terms and conditions or in the contract. In this specific case, a portion of the course fees should be paid.

The outside areas of sport and leisures facilities reopened on 1 March. Young people up to the age of 20 will be able to participate in most sporting and cultural activities again.

Where do I have to wear a face mask?

As of 29 October, you are also required to wear a mask in the outdoor areas of organizations and businesses. Another new requirement is that masks must be worn in schools from upper secondary level and, as of 18 January 2021, in the workplace when there is more than one person in the room. and wherever you cannot maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from others in public. Children up to the age of 12 do not need to wear a mask, nor do their teachers or other staff members as long as the required distance can be maintained. People over the age of 12 can be exempt from wearing a mask for medical reasons.

According to the Epidemics Act, you can be fined up to 10,000 francs if you do not comply with the mask-wearing rule. While shop owners are free to decide whether or not to report people, police officers are obliged to do so.

The reason given is that face masks protect other people to a greater degree than those wearing them. Masks should therefore only be used in combination with distancing and hygiene rules. Industries are obliged to put protective measures in place when they open their individual businesses.

Do I have to wear FFP2 masks?

The FOPH still does not recommend the wearing of FFP2 masks for the general population. However, in bordering countries such as Germany and Austria, it is compulsory to wear FFP2 masks. FFP2 masks were originally designed for construction workers. They protect the wearer from fine dust particles and have a filtration efficiency of at least 94%. They therefore provide greater protection against viruses than ordinary masks.

Where can I buy masks?

Shops, chemists and online stores now sell basic hygiene masks, but these are not medical products. They provide sufficient protection for day-to-day use in shops or on public transport as long as they meet the requirements of the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force. CE-marked masks, such as type I or type IIR, are also available on the market. These masks are designed for doctors and nurses and also provide suitable protection. A manufacturer's certificate attests that the masks meet ISO standards for medical supplies.

Wherever possible, choose EMPA-tested products (in German and French only) or masks with a manufacturer’s certificate.

Can I make my own mask?

The Federal Council advises against making your own textile mask. Commercially produced textile masks should comply with the recommendations of the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force or be certified by Testex.

How do I obtain an exemption from wearing a mask?

If you are exempt from wearing a mask for medical reasons, you require a certificate from a doctor, psychotherapist or physiotherapist. Such a certificate may only be issued if it is indicated for the person concerned. This rule is designed to prevent certificates being issued to accommodate mask refusers.

Will businesses that do not observe coronavirus rules be fined?

Yes. Anyone breaching the COVID ban on events can be fined or imprisoned for up to three years. The current rules in the area of sales also fall under this event ban.

Which measures apply in the individual cantons?

As of 9 January 2021, the same general rules apply across the whole of Switzerland. The only exception is ski resorts, as the transport systems are part of public transport, which is not affected by closures.
Events, with certain exceptions, are banned, while sports and cultural activities are only permitted in groups of up to five people.

Do we need to stay at home like we did during the first lockdown?

The new corona ordinance of 12 December 2020 does not explicitly require you to stay at home. The Federal Council is counting on people to take responsibility themselves: the less physical contact we have with other people, the sooner we get the pandemic under control. For this reason, as of 18 January 2021, a maximum of five people are allowed to gather in private homes. This includes children. Families of five or more may not invite anyone round. As of 1 March, friends and family members may gather in groups of up to 15 people outside.

Can I go to a restaurant?

Restaurants and bars had to close on 22 December 2020 and must remain closed until the end of February 2021. Only work cafeterias, school canteens in compulsory schools and restaurants for hotel guests may stay open. Take-away businesses and delivery services may also continue to operate.

Can I invite people to a party in my home?

No. As of 18. January, a maximum of five people may gather at home. This includes children. Families of five or more may not invite anyone round. At the press conference on 18 October, Federal Council member Alain Berset advised people to “postpone family gatherings until better times”. As of 1 March, family members and friends are permitted to gather again outside in groups of up to 15.

Can I organize drinks and snacks for the neighbours outdoors?

This is no longer really possible. As of 18 January 2021, events involving family and friends are limited to just five persons inside and, as of 1 March, to 15 persons outside, irrespective of how many families are participating. This includes children. The Federal Council recommends postponing such gatherings.

What rules apply within the family?

Visits – including by or to grandparents – are not banned. The Federal Council is calling for people to take responsibility themselves: it is imperative that distancing and hygiene rules are observed. Contact between grandparents and grandchildren or with vulnerable family members should be kept to a minimum. A maximum of five people may meet inside and, as of 1 March, a maximum of 15 outside. Households comprising five or more persons may not receive visitors inside their homes.

Can we take our children to visit their grandparents?

Yes. However, make sure you observe distancing and hygiene rules. Protecting vulnerable people means minimizing contact between grandparents and grandchildren. As of 18 January 2021, family and friends may only meet in groups of up to five inside and, as of 1 March, up to 15 outside. 

Do pupils and teachers have to wear masks in school?

Children under 12 do not have to wear a mask, nor do their teachers or daycare staff.

Do children who have a cough have to go to school?

No. Children who have a cough or other coronavirus symptoms should not go to school or play with other children.

Can I still play sport?

You can play sport outdoors if you wear a mask or observe the 1.5-metre distance rule. Like restaurants, fitness centres and gyms had to close on 22 December 2020 and must remain closed until the end of February 2021. Contact sports like football, hockey, basketball, combat sports and ballroom dancing are only permitted at professional level. A maximum of 5 people may train together.
Sports activities for children and young people under 16 are permitted with no restrictions.

Can we go on our skiing holiday?

As of 22 December 2020, each ski resort requires a permit from the cantonal authorities in order to operate, which will only be issued if the epidemiological situation allows. This means that the canton must have sufficient capacity in terms of testing, contract tracing and hospital beds for coronavirus patients. Mask wearing is compulsory and the minimum distance must be observed when queuing. Enclosed transport facilities may only be two-thirds full. Restaurants are closed. Take-aways are permitted provided the food is consumed outdoors. The Federal Council has pointed out that restaurants may not open their outdoor terraces, even if they are not serving guests, and has called on the cantons to end this illegal activity. The cantons must monitor compliance with the measures and report to the federal government.

Does the minimum distance rule apply in shops as well?

Yes, you should observe the 1.5-metre distance rule wherever possible. As in all publicly accessible indoor and heavily frequented outdoor spaces, you are required to wear a mask. Shops are limited to a maximum of one customer per 10 square metres.

Is singing really banned?

Yes, apart from in the family home and compulsory schools, singing is not allowed indoors or outdoors.

How do I get a coronavirus vaccination?

The FOPH announced that vaccinations would be rolled out starting in January 2021 and expects everyone to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the middle of the year.

Are museums and libraries open?

As of 1 March, shops, museums and the outdoor areas of sports and leisure facilities may reopen. Cultural activities are permitted in small groups, for children under the age of 16 and young adults up to the age of 20. Events with an audience are prohibited, but online alternatives are allowed.
Libraries are permitted to open for people to borrow books. Users should spend as little time as possible in the library. Any seating must be removed or cordoned off. Break areas, work areas and PC workstations are closed to customers. Reading rooms were allowed to reopen on 1 March. Newspapers may only be borrowed, and no daily newspapers will be available.

Which shops are open?

Shops, museums and the outdoor areas of sport and leisure facilities reopened on 1 March. The necessary protective measures and restrictions on number of users apply.

Will I be fined if I do not observe coronavirus rules?

As of 1 February, if certain coronavirus measures are not adhered to, a fine of between 50 and 200 francs may be imposed. You can be fined for not wearing a mask on public transport, in stations and at bus/tram stops and outside public buildings, as well as for attending an illegal event or organizing a prohibited private event.

Essential links on the current situation

  • Latest updates from the FOPH
  • On this page, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) provides daily updates on the status of coronavirus and details of how to protect yourself.

  • Travel information from the FDFA
  • If you are planning to travel, you can check this page of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) for information on the current situation in the destination country (in German, French and Italian only). There is a section dedicated to coronavirus.

  • Global situation from the WHO
  • The World Health Organization has created a dashboard collating all the information relating to the spread of the virus. It provides the latest data on confirmed cases and deaths.


Sports facilities of any kind, casinos, youth clubs, bowling and billiard centres and brothels are closed.
Sports facilities of any kind, casinos, youth clubs, bowling and billiard centres and brothels are closed.
Sports facilities of any kind, casinos, youth clubs, bowling and billiard centres and brothels are closed.
Sports facilities of any kind, casinos, youth clubs, bowling and billiard centres and brothels are closed.