Updated regulations on the pandemic released by the Federal Council in Bern

PANDEMIA

As of December 6, the certificate and mask requirement will be expanded in Switzerland,remote working will be recommended, and the validity of rapid antigen tests will be shortened.

Updated regulations on the pandemic released by the Federal Council in Bern

Updated regulations on the pandemic released by the Federal Council in Bern

Updated regulations on the pandemic released by the Federal Council in Bern
New rules from Bern, here is what the Federal Council has decided

Updated regulations on the pandemic released by the Federal Council in Bern

New rules from Bern, here is what the Federal Council has decided

The Federal Council held a brief consultation on Tuesday regarding new measures to introduce in view of the rise in coronavirus cases and the arrival of the new variant Omicron. The cantons responded by stating that they partially agreed, with some reservations. «Almost all measures will be carried out, except for compulsory testing in schools,« declared Alain Berset at a press conference from Bern today. The goal is to limit the pressure hospitals are under. «We would like to contain the spread of the new variant and protect health care facilities. The situation is very serious.» The federal government has appealed to the cantons to be vigilant about the situation in hospitals.

The COVID certificate in private and family gatherings is not «mandatory» but «recommended». «We ask the public to be cautious», added the Federal Councilor. As for the obligation to wear a mask indoors, the Federal Council «wants to support the ‘’2G’’ (access to vaccinated and cured people, «2G» from German «geimpft» and «genesen») for all the public facilities that are subject to the certificate requirement and all indoor and outdoor events, as well as businesses, clubs and discos. Teleworking is recommended, but employees are required to wear a face mask (including at their workstation). Validity of rapid antigen tests is reduced from 48 to 24 hours from sample collection; PCR tests continue to be valid for 72 hours.

«The Federal Council regrets» the abandonment of the requirement to perform swabs in schools. But as many as 17 cantons rejected the proposal. «The possibility is not yet completely discarded».

As of tomorrow, Saturday, December 4, all countries will be removed from the list of states and regions for which quarantine is mandatory. But the testing requirement has been tightened, and now also applies to people who have been vaccinated or cured. Besides having to undergo a PCR test prior to entry into Switzerland (i.e. from the country of origin), a second test (PCR or rapid antigen test) must also be performed between the fourth and seventh day after arrival.

«The circumstances and measures are not as limiting as in other countries,« added Berset. «But we need everyone to participate in the efforts, to wear a mask and reduce contact, as well as to ventilate the premises. Remote working remains a relevant possibility. We will succeed, but we need everyone’s cooperation. We need to respect the current situation.»

Considering the «less serious» situation than in the second wave, it has been possible to take measures that are not too «intrusive». However, the Federal Council « continuously monitors» the progress of the pandemic and the situation in hospitals. «The daily behavior of the public is crucial,« says Berset, we must return to good habits (distance, hand hygiene, mask).

In the view of the National Council, coronavirus screening tests should go back to being free. On the grounds of cost, the FDP has objected in vain to free anticovid testing. But the opinion of the states is still pending. «The costs would be very high. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of francs,« clarified the federal councilor.

From Monday, December 6, 2021, the certificate requirement and mask requirement will be extended, the telework recommendation strengthened, and the duration of validity of rapid antigen tests reduced. Furthermore, events and facilities subject to the certificate requirement will have the option of restricting access to vaccinated or cured persons and therefore waiving the mask requirement. This was decided by the Federal Council at its session on December 3, 2021, following consultation with the cantons, both sides of industry and the relevant parliamentary committees. The Federal Council intends to use these measures in response to the sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and the emergence of the Omicron variant. The new provisions will remain in force until 24 January 2022. The testing regime for those entering Switzerland will also be tightened. From tomorrow, 4 December 2021, all countries will be removed from the lists of countries and regions that are subject to quarantine.

The Federal Council considers the present situation as critical. The outbreak of the Omicron variant has also complicated the fight against the pandemic. The new variant, which was discovered on 26 November, has been classified as a cause for concern by the World Health Organization. It should be considered highly contagious and it is possible that even people immunized against the Delta variant could be infected. It is also unclear how dangerous it is and to what extent the vaccine protects against serious courses.

Objective: to relieve hospitals

By strengthening the measures, the Federal Council intends to reduce infections with the Delta variant in such a way as to relieve hospitals as much as possible. The validity of the new measures is currently limited to 24 January 2022. However, vaccination is still the best way to relieve hospitals and it is important that vaccination is carried out quickly.

Extension of the certificate requirement

Certificate documents that an individual is vaccinated, cured or tested negative. Therefore, it reduces considerably the risk of infection. As of December 6, it will be mandatory for all public events and indoor amateur sports or cultural activities. The current exemption for groups with a permanent size of less than 30 people is revoked.

Additionally, for outdoor events, the certificate will be mandatory from 300 participants onwards and no longer from 1000 participants. The experiences gained since the beginning of the pandemic show that the risk of infection in the private sphere is high. It is therefore recommended that from a minimum of 11 people, a certificate should also be required for meetings with family or friends indoors. For the Federal Council, it is important that the public should be particularly cautious in the private sphere, especially at family events.

Extension of the mask obligation

A simple and affordable tool, the face mask has proven to be an efficient means of containing the spread of the virus. It will be mandatory indoors in all places where a certificate is required, with the exception of private meetings.

Possibility of limiting access to vaccinated or cured people

Where it is not possible to wear a mask, considerable caution is required. Alternative measures are accordingly introduced: the obligation to sit while eating in restaurants or the collection of contact data of participants in cultural or sporting activities such as choir rehearsals or indoor training. In the case of all public facilities that are subject to the compulsory certificate as well as all indoor and outdoor events, there is also the possibility of restricting access to vaccinated or cured persons and therefore waiving the mask requirement. People who have been vaccinated or cured are much less contagious and, if infected, have a high probability of not falling seriously ill and therefore not being hospitalized.

The COVID certificate check app will need to be extended to facilitate limiting access to vaccinated or cured individuals. The adjustment will not be available until December 13. Until then facility managers and event organizers will need to manually check whether those in attendance are vaccinated or cured. The optional restriction of access to vaccinated or cured persons was desired during the consultation, among other things because the obligation to sit during consumption would economically harm, for example, discotheques.

Strongly recommended teleworking

Teleworking is strongly recommended to minimize contact in the workplace. Additionally, all employees must wear a face mask in enclosed spaces where multiple people are present. The cantons and social partners have voted overwhelmingly against mandatory telework. From the epidemiological point of view, a binding rule would be more effective than the recommendation.

Reduction of the period of validity of negative test certificates

The validity of rapid antigen tests is reduced from 48 to 24 hours from the time of sample collection. This measure increases the reliability of results because the time period in which a person with a valid test certificate could become infectious is now greatly reduced. PCR tests continue to be valid for 72 hours.

Capacity limitations lifted

In accordance with a requirement of COVID-19, if the intended population of adults has been «properly vaccinated,« the capacity limitations on facilities and businesses open to the public, events, and private gatherings must be lifted. This stipulation was adopted by Parliament during deliberations in the 2021 summer session. Following the efforts of the cantons and the federal government during vaccination week, it must be assumed that people over the age of 12 who wished to be vaccinated have been vaccinated. Because of the requirement of the COVID-19 Act, the Federal Council can no longer place appropriate capacity limitations based on epidemiological considerations, particularly in indoor locations. Consequently, the capacity restrictions that are still in force, e.g. for religious meetings, educational institutions and outdoor events, will be lifted. However, the cantons may continue to provide for capacity restrictions.

Renunciation of mandatory testing in schools

Since 17 out of 26 cantons have rejected the proposal, the Federal Council is waiving the requirement for compulsory and secondary level II schools to offer repeat testing. However, the Federal Council remains convinced of the effectiveness of repeated testing in identifying infections at an early stage and breaking the chains of transmission. Testing would also reduce the risk of having to close schools or revert to distance learning.

Collaboration between federal and cantonal authorities confirmed

Nearly all cantons remain in agreement with the strategic principles of cooperation between the federal government and its cantons that were agreed upon in October 2020. A large majority is also willing to take more restrictive measures, if those taken at the federal level are not sufficient due to regional epidemiological developments.

Entry into Switzerland: quarantine abolished, test requirement strengthened

The Federal Council also amended the entry regulations for Switzerland. As of tomorrow, Saturday, December 4, all countries will be removed from the list of countries and regions for which quarantine is mandatory. To continue to keep the spread of the Omicron variant in the country as low as possible, the entry test regime has been tightened. The testing requirement now also applies to vaccinated or cured persons. In addition to having to undergo a PCR test before entering Switzerland, a second test (PCR or rapid antigen test) must also be performed between the fourth and seventh day after arrival. This will ensure that people who have been infected shortly before or during the journey are identified. Travelers are responsible for the cost of the test.

Non-vaccinated third-country nationals wishing to enter the Schengen area from countries or regions considered to be at risk are prohibited from entering Switzerland for temporary stays without employment for up to 90 days in a 180-day period, except for certain exceptions (hardship cases). This is particularly true for tourism and visiting stays. The list of countries and regions at risk can be found in Annex 1 of Ordinance 3 COVID-19 and is continuously updated according to the recommendations of the European Commission for the Schengen States.

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